The Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture convened for briefing by the National English Literary Museum; Blind SA; and the South African Library for the Blind on the 2017/18 Annual Performance Plans and Strategic Plans 2015- 2019. There was a briefing of the audit findings for the Department of Arts and Culture and its entities by the Auditor General South Africa as well.
Mr J Esterhuizen (IFP) would receive a permanent apology, due to being an alternative Member of the
The office of the Auditor General South Africa presented the audit findings of the Department of Arts and Culture and its entities. An overview of the key findings of the audit report were as follows, the Annual Performance Plans indicators were not well defined and the targets were neither specific nor measurable; the indicators were not verifiable upon inspection of the Technical Indicator Description; there were discrepancies between the annual, quarterly targets and listings provided by management, and the Technical Indicator Description was sometimes blank or incomplete. Another key finding was that the indicator and target in the Medium Term Strategic Framework, which was the responsibility of the Minister of Arts and Culture, was not included in the Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan of the Department.
The budget analysis of the Department included a comparison of expenditure per programme between 2016-17 and 2017-18. Programme 1: Corporate Services incurred a decline of 6% from R262 601 in 2016-17 to R266 509 in 2017-18. Programme 2: Institutional Governance incurred an increase of 7% from R353 217 in 2016- 17 to R385 951 within 2017-18. Programme 3: Arts and Culture Promotion and Development incurred an increase of 5% from R1.068 million in 2016- 17 to R1.154 million within 2017-18. Programme: 4 Heritage Preservation and Promotion incurred an increase of 13% from R2.40 million in 2016- 17 to R2.64 million within 2017-18. The budget analysis per economic classification was as follows: 80% of the budget of DAC was spent by means of Transfers and Subsidies and the quantitative value was R3 575 151; whilst the remaining 20% of the budget allocation amounted to R4 449 845. The remaining budget was divided amongst Payment for Capital Assets by 28%, i.e. R243 325; Compensation of Employees by 27%, i.e. R232 464, and Goods and Services by 46%, i.e. R398 905. Transfers and Subsidies for 2017- 18 comprised 80% of the total budget and was divided amongst Public corporation and private enterprises by 3%, i.e. R118 000; households by 0%, i.e. R1000; non- profit organisations by 5%, i.e. R171 000; Provinces and municipalities by 40%, i.e. R1 420 000; departmental agencies and accounts by 52%, i.e. R1 832 000, and the foreign international organizations by 0%, i.e. R5000.
Members of Parliament questioned why the AGSA had included the United Nations millennium sustainable development goals as an aspiration, because it would not have been viable to focus on the weightier National Development Plan goals and in so doing suffice the international UN goals; how would the Office of the Auditor General deal with General Recognised Accounting Practice 103 and how does AGSA account for the issue of value; should not the audit findings of the entities have been more elaborate given its larger significance of expenditure; what were the implication of targets that were not corrected as previously highlighted by the Office of the Auditor General, as well as prospective implications if the current concerns were not corrected; would the Department be made aware of possible findings in the entities that would result in a qualified audit outcome for the year, and requested clarity on the four indicators that were not corrected as per final Annual Performance Plan 2017/18 for Programme 3?
The Committee also commented that it had discovered that in the past some entities were granted ‘clean audits’, but oversight visits surfaced that misappropriation of funds took place internally. These errors insinuated that the receipt of a clean audit finding had not prohibited the ill use of funds. It was understood that the Office of the Auditor General would request particular information to deduce if the stipulated Annual Performance Plans were adhered to in the occurrences of the entities. However, if it were established that an entity or governmental department had been responsible for corruption, but the specific entity had received a clean audit from the Office of the Auditor General, would not the integrity of AGSA be at risk of jeopardy, due to the inability of it to have inferred the corruption?
The Department on Arts and Culture presented an overview of the performance of its entity, the National English Literary Museum. As at the 3rd quarter of 2016/17, 54% of the targets were achieved whilst 46% remained unachieved. Total Income for the 3rd quarter in the current 2016/17 amounted to R2.4 million that included R2.3 million from government grants and R102 000 was self- generated income. The Expenditure for the agency had fluctuated between surpluses and deficits from 2013/14 -2016/ 17. During the current financial year 2016/17 the expenditure was R2.3 million, which entailed a surplus of R164 000. According to Auditor General South Africa, the National English Literary Museum received a qualified audit report outcome in 2013/14, qualified with findings in 2014/15 and again in 2015/16 received an audit outcome that was qualified with findings.
The delegation of the National English Literary Museum presented that the Strategic Focuses of 2015- 2019 included preparation for move to new building in 2016, which took place in June 2016, and widening the scope of the museum to include the literatures of the historically disadvantaged languages of South Africa, which would include the addition of locally spoken Afrikaans and isiXhosa.
Strategic outcome oriented goal 1 (2015) was to manage the institution within the framework of sound corporate governance. The outcome was that in preparation for this the Museum was modernising its operations, building staff capacity and nurturing relationships that add value to its Programmes and increase their impact across society. Strategic outcome oriented goal 2 (2015) was to be a pre-eminent source of expertise in South African literary heritage. The outcome was that the Museum continues to collect and preserves documents and researches South African literary heritage. Also, consideration of collaboration with similar literary and heritage institutions was sought to enhance this goal. Strategic outcome goal 3 (2015) was to promote the understanding and enjoyment of South African Literature. The outcome hereof had faced a challenge of awareness of the existence of the Museum. Scholars, in particular, were ignorant of the Museum as a national asset. The Annual Performance Plans 2017/18 included the need for sound governance; for the Museum to become a Centre of expertise, and a promoter of understanding and enjoyment of South African Literature.
Challenges faced were the inability to easily access the public for the sake of awareness, as this had also impacted the ability to reach the communities for public comment of the change of name that the Museum was to undergo, due to the incorporation of new languages. Subsequently, the Museum kick-started the process by submitting suggestions internally amongst its management, of which the proposals were set to be released in the public domain for comment. However, given the geographical dispensation it may prove to reach most locals for commentary. Expenditure trends included an additional allocation of R2 million in 2017/18 for the valuation of heritage assets (over 100 000) to have complied with General Recognised Accounting Practice 103. A grievous concern was the ongoing litigation with the Auditor- General South Africa, because the Auditor-General alleged that for the period 2010 to 2015, the Museum had not paid any audit fees.
Members of Parliament questioned whether the Department had agreed that the entity was under-funded; how would the inclusion of Afrikaans affect the National Afrikaans Taal Museum; where were the donations derived from, and upon its receipt had the protocol for donations by National Treasury been adhered to; why the Museum had considered that politics could be evaded within a new choice of name; since only 54% of targets had been achieved thus far, would the Museum be capable of sufficing its Annual Targets by the end of the financial year; why had over-expenditure and subsequently a deficit incurred in the previous financial year; asked if the dispute with the Auditor General could be elaborated upon and fully clarified; which reserves were made reference to in the division of ‘Transfers and Reserves’; what had the ‘Interest and dividends’ comprised of; what could the Museum, attest to as the cause for the bill by the Office of the Auditor General to have reached an outstanding amount of R2 million; asked if an amount could be envisaged regarding the ultimate cost of the litigation; asked why the Department had allowed the dispute between the Museum and the Auditor General to have reached the point that it has, because every form of defence in the process of litigation had cost money, even the R2milllion that was contested shall prove insignificant to the ultimate cost that shall be evoked once the entire dispute was resolved legally, thus had the Department intervened at any point as a preventative measure, and queried that if proof of innocence was available as claimed by the Museum, what then was the bone of contention, if any?
The Department noted that Blind SA was a non- profit organisation that was not an official entity of the Department, but it had received funds from the Department. Thus, no supplication of Annual Performance Plans or Strategic Plans were made, but the Department does review its delivery, as the organisation executes programmes for reading and writing, which were of interest to the Department. BlindSA also submits a report outlining the expenditure of the funds received from the Department on an annual basis.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) presented an outline of funds received; the Total Budget for 2017/18 amounted to R18 439 301.25; however, the allocation by the Department of Arts and Culture for 2017/18 was R8 315 000. The budget per objective/Programme was as follows: Objective 1: Governance and Administration costs R2 529 700.00; Objective 2: Accessible Publications amounted to R8 188 300; Objective 3: Social Rehabilitation shall be R4 470 501; Objective 4: Vocational Rehabilitation was R1 250 000.25, and Objective 5: Educational Rehabilitation would be R2 000 800. The alignment of BlindSA objectives had incorporated Seven of the 10 Point Plan by the Department and had 14 outcomes of the National Development Plan 2030. The greatest challenge for BlindSA was the issue of resources and under- funding.
Members of Parliament questioned that given the mandatory equity ratios for employment, which were that 2% of governmental workforce should comprise of those with disabilities, had the Department ever considered to contact BlindSA for recruitment for its members; what policy was implemented when DAC the Department granted BlindSA funding; what was the policy governing or directing its relation with BlindSA; questioned whether sign language training was being done for the deaf; was Braille training provided for adults who had become blind later in life, due to illness; had BlindSA a comprehensive database stipulating every blind citizen or permanent resident of South Africa; was a list available specifying an organisation to implore the services of blind employees, as means of ensuring collaboration amongst them and to address their special needs; could the Department account for the criterion that had informed the financial allocations to BlindSA; how does BlindSA effectively reach out to every blind citizen across the country; what was the relationship with and role of Social Development with BlindSA; asked if a budget was available for guide dogs or was there an expectation to receive it on the basis of charity; questioned if the usage of guide dogs for scholars could be extended to after school hours; could the schools located in the townships also benefit from the usage of guide dogs for their blind scholars; was BlindSA accountable to the Department of Social Development regarding norms and standards, or had it operated entirely on its own accord, and what were the prerequisites that BlindSA required adherence for its funding received from DAC?
The delegation of the Department could merely present the challenges that the South African Library for the Blind had faced. The measures of intervention by the Department were noted as well. The challenges posed to the Library were funding for the procurement and maintenance of the playback devices; the need to upgrade and refurbishment of the Library building; the audit fees by the Office of the Auditor General were posing a challenge to the institution due to shortage of funds; the scarcity of skills relating to Braille and audio production, and a disciplinary case of an employee.
The delegation of the South African Library for the Blind presented findings on the 2017/18 Annual Performance Plan and Strategic Plan, as well as major challenges faced. A challenge was that since the Library required scarce skills for operational function it was difficult to recruit and retain the appropriate candidates for employment. Another challenge was the constraints of the building. Also, there was a need to remain a national funding priority; because budget cuts and increased funding liabilities had impacted operational quality. Legal compliance (operational and financial) posed as a challenge. Fifthly, the National Copyright Legislation and International access to reading material, i.e. the Marrakesh Treaty, posed as a challenge due to the stance that South Africa had taken. Moreover, the technology required was obligatory imported, as it was unavailable locally and thus proved significantly expensive, particularly given the current exchange and dwindling rand-currency.
The SA Library for the Blind achievements, expressed as opportunities, were the following: it was the only National Library for the Blind in Africa; National collaboration initiatives existed with other organisations for the blind; specialised training and skills were provided for and enhanced by involvement in the Library; it comprised of unique collections, both on the digital and tactile platform, and the Library had international collaboration by means of IFLA - World Intellectual Property Organisation. The Income of the organisation for 2017/18 had amounted to R22 421 000. Its expenditure equated the same total, viz. R22 421 000. Thus, there were no instances of over or under expenditure. It was noted that 83% of the APP targets were achieved for the 3rd quarter 2017/18.
Due to time constraints, discussion of the presentation produced two questions by Members of Parliament: on what basis were funds allocated, and why had South Africa not ceded to the Treaty?
The Chairperson welcomed attendees and noted that the meeting with the Office of the Auditor General was not only important to the Committee, but its account was taken seriously when conducting the oversight function on the Department and its entities. From the onset, the activities of the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture were based on the outcomes of the audit reports supplied by the AGSA, since the information provided served a guide regarding matters to further scrutinise. During the first year, focus was placed on institutions that were performing poorly as per the indication of AGSA. 80% of the budget of the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) was transferred to its entities, thus the Committee made a conscious decision to focus on the success of the entities during the five years that the Committee was appointed for. It was deemed peculiar that the Department had not focused on the execution of the 80% budget allocation after it was dispersed to the entities. Even more so, DAC had only 2-3 people to organise the dispensation of funds amongst the 26- 28 entities. This stance was impractical, as it was implausible to have merely 3 individuals overseeing 80% of the Department’s budget. Another error for correction was that DAC should not have simply employed candidates for the sake of fulfilling a role or vacancy, but those appointed should be both qualified and capacitated going forward. Admittedly, occasionally the Portfolio Committee felt discouraged during oversight visitation, because limited return on investment appeared evident in the entity under review. For instance, it was disheartening having had to revert to the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State (PACOFS) to have dealt with recurring issues in subsequent years. The Committee would appreciate if AGSA could go beyond the focus of the DAC and sample some of the entities within the audit report. It was pleasing that in the past some of the issues highlighted by the AGSA were already a concern to the Committee, as this condones proper scrutiny.
Auditor General South Africa
Ms Nelisiwe Mhlongo, Acting Senior Manager, Auditor General South Africa, explained the overview of key findings on the review of the 2017-18 Annual Performance Plans (APP), which was done on the 2nd draft APP 17 January 2017 and its final version that was submitted on 13 March 2017. The APP indicators were not well defined and the targets were neither specific. Programme 3 had 18 targets, of which 11 were not well defined, however seven indicators were corrected from the draft within the final APP, but four targets remained uncorrected as per the final APP 2017/18. Programme 4 had 17 targets, of which 10 were not well defined, but the complete 10 indicators were corrected from the draft within the final APP. Secondly, a key finding was that the targets were not measurable. Programme 3 had 18 targets, of which eight were not measurable, however four indicators were corrected from the draft within the final APP, but four targets remained uncorrected as per the final APP 2017/18. Programme 4 had 17 targets, of which three were not measurable, but the three indicators were corrected from the draft within the final APP. Another key finding was that the indicators were not verifiable upon inspection of the Technical Indicator Description (TID). Fourthly, key findings were the discrepancies between the annual, quarterly targets and listings provided by management. Programme 3 had 18 targets, of which four had discrepancies; however the indicators were corrected from the draft within the final APP 2017/18. Programme 4 had 17 targets, of which two also had discrepancies, but it was resolved with correction from the draft within the final APP. Another key finding was that the Technical Indicator Description was sometimes blank or incomplete; also, the Indicator and target in the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), which was the responsibility of the Minister of Arts and Culture, was not included in the Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan of the DAC, due to no reflection thereof.
The budget analysis of the Department included a comparison of expenditure per programme between 2016-17 and 2017-18. Programme 1: Corporate Services, incurred a decline of 6% from R262 601 in 2016-17 to R266 509 in 2017-18. Programme 2: Institutional Governance, incurred an increase of 7% from R353 217 in 2016- 17 to R385 951 within 2017-18. Programme 3: Arts and Culture Promotion and Development, incurred an increase of 5% from R1.068 million in 2016- 17 to R1.154 million within 2017-18. Programme 4: Heritage Preservation and Promotion, incurred an increase of 13% from R2.40 million in 2016- 17 to R2.64 million within 2017-18.
The budget analysis per economic classification was as follows: 80% of the budget of DAC was spent by means of Transfers and Subsidies and the quantitative value was R3 575 151; whilst the remaining 20% of the budget allocation amounted to R4 449 845. The remaining budget was divided amongst Payment for Capital Assets by 28%, i.e. R243 325; Compensation of Employees by 27%, i.e. R232 464, and Goods and Services by 46%, i.e. R398 905. Transfers and Subsidies for 2017- 18 comprised 80% of the total budget and was divided amongst Public corporation and private enterprises by 3%, i.e. R118 000; households by 0%, i.e. R1000; non- profit organisations by 5%, i.e. R171 000; Provinces and municipalities by 40%, i.e. R1 420 000; departmental agencies and accounts by 52%, i.e. R1 832 000, and foreign international organisations by 0%, i.e. R5000. Please peruse page 47 of attached documentation for a complete breakdown of percentages spent on each entity of DAC.
Ms Mhlongo advised key matters for noting to the Committee, such as the instability of leadership and the repercussions on accountability it could possibly have. Vacant executive positions were indicated, viz. the Director General (DG) position has been vacant in the DAC since September 2014; the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) position was vacant in the Nelson Mandela Museum; there was also a CEO vacancy in the Performing Arts of Free State entity; the entity Msunduzi/Voortrekker Museum had a vacancy for the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Income Manager, and the Ditsong Museum of South Africa had two executive vacancies, such as the CFO and the Human Resource Manager. It was also noted that an assessment done by AGSA was based on limited information available to date, as the majority of entities may not be enabled to resolve the GRAP 103 matters and therefore could possibly incur a qualified audit outcome in the current year.
Please revise the attached documentation for the overview of the reporting process; audit outcomes of the portfolio; the performance plans review of the portfolio that includes explanation of the review process, key considerations when reviewing the APP (to decipher how the conclusions were made), criteria used to assess the drafting of the APP, the analogy of the strategic alignment of the APP to the National Development Plan (Chapter 15) and whether the targets per programme had sufficed the key objectives; progress on matters discussed on 14 February 2017; AGSA improved methodology, and the key recommendations for improvement.
Mr J Mahlangu (ANC) appreciated the presentation, then questioned why the AGSA had included the United Nations (UN) millennium sustainable development goals, reflected on slide 6 as an aspiration? Since its inclusion would evoke the notion by giving the impression that South Africa was aiming to suffice those sustainable goals, when in reality the objectives founded in the National Development Plan (NDP) goals of 2030 surpassed those of the UN. Thus, why would it not have been viable to focus on the weightier NDP goals and in so doing suffice the other international goals, because it had entailed it? Secondly, how would AGSA deal with GRAP 103 and how does AGSA account for the issue of value? For instance, if an artwork has had a specific value whilst the artist was alive the same artwork would escalate exponentially in value and asking price once the artist would be deceased, sometimes even in the same year that the artist passes on. Would the AGSA be able to evaluate the scale by which value increases once passing of the artist takes place? It appears that preceding the passing of the artist the artwork was under- valued. Furthermore, nothing appreciates in value more than artwork of deceased published artists. Artwork were assets that should have a quantitative manner to decipher its value, both whilst the artists were alive as well as when events occur that may affect its asking price. Lastly, the audit findings seemingly concentrate on the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) by means of a comprehensive audit of their undertakings; yet, 80% of the budget of the Department was allocated to its entities, but less expansive audit findings were warranted about the entities. Should not the audit findings of the entities have been more elaborate given its larger significance of expenditure?
Mr T Makondo (ANC) commented that the AGSA should have met the Committee half- way regarding the audit report, because it was meant to have been extensive regarding the findings of the entities, as entities received 80% of the Department’s budget allocation. The audit report, therefore, lacks depth due to the focus on the Department, which merely utilised 20% of its budget. What were the implications of targets that were not corrected as previously highlighted by AGSA, as well as prospective implications if the current concerns that were not corrected?
The Chairperson reiterated that the planning process was exceedingly important, since a flawed planning process would result in flawed results. Additionally, the Committee discovered that in the past some entities were granted ‘clean audits’, but oversight visits surfaced that misappropriation of funds took place internally. These errors insinuated that the receipt of a clean audit finding had not prohibited the ill use of funds. It was understood that the AGSA would request particular information to deduce if the stipulated APPs were adhered to in the occurrences of the entities. However, if it were established that an entity or government departmental had been responsible for corruption, but the specific entity had received a clean audit from AGSA, would not the integrity of AGSA be at risk of jeopardy, due to the inability of it to have inferred the corruption?
Ms Mhlongo clarified that the methodology of auditing the entities was executed differently to the manner that DAC was audited. The extent by which information could be scrutinised and verified was dependant on its size and budget availability; thus, the amount of time and effort spent on the Department would not be replicated in its entities, because the entities were smaller organisations that could not afford the same attention due to their smaller budget allocations for auditing. However, this would not entail a compromised audit, it would merely entail that key aspects and important information were focused on. The auditing of DAC was executed on a larger scope, since it was imperative to note whether the stipulated Annual Performance Plans had adhered to national strategies and upheld its national mandate, especially since the entities were accountable to it. Next, regarding GRAP 103, annually a standard was specified, which meant that heritage assets as well as artwork by artists would be indicated accordingly. These took into account material changes or event happenstances if such had applied in the inflation of the price. Therefore, if an artwork was worth R500 000 in a financial year, but due to the passing of the artist the same artwork would be worth up to R5 million in subsequent financial years, the impossibility of accessing artwork by the artist would be indicated as a cost measurement. Changes of conditions were noted in the asking price, and its evaluation could be verified once the entity accounted for its appreciation or depreciation. The Committee could be assured that the AGSA notes that more work regarding the entities should be done given the fact that 80% of the Department’s budget allocation was dispersed amongst its entities and agencies, as per consideration of the Portfolio Committee.
Ms Modiegi Morare, Manager, AGSA, answered that the AGSA had reviewed past and current performance regarding the stipulated indicators, even when information regarding the KPI were yet awaited upon. If no evidence of an indicator existed, the indicator would continue to be recorded but with reference as non- existent. Also, the non-adherence to target performances previously highlighted for corrective measures but was yet not complied to would have an implication on the usefulness of the information submitted thereafter.
The Chairperson asked if the Department would be made aware of possible findings in the entities as means of prevention before it was finalised?
Ms Morare replied that indication to the Management of DAC as well as the internal audit team was made regarding faltered findings. The Department had also received communication from AGSA regarding indicators that were not SMART and a request for its improvement by 2018 was made, as the audit report conclusion would be impacted by it.
Ms Mhlongo assured the Committee that AGSA shall select certain entities in 2018 and conduct a detailed audit review on it. It was currently impractical to do in-depth audits for the 26 entities of the Department as it was done for DAC.
The Chairperson thanked the AGSA for the insight warranted by the AGSA. It should be noted that the Committee took the issues highlighted seriously; it had influenced oversight and had served as a basis for the programming of the Committee. The relationship stemming from AGSA to the Portfolio Committee and DAC was highly appreciated. The communication warranted as a forewarning to the Department to implement corrective measures or serve as intervention before non- compliance occurred were also appreciated; however, it was seemingly a pity that DAC had not timeously heeded to the forewarnings. Once issues were identified as erroneous it was essential that DAC implement corrective measure to rectify the root causes as prohibition of it repetition. Another concern was that when remedial action was noted, it would be done in a manner that was not well defined. The ambiguity could risk exacerbation of a problem, as opposed to its resolve once specifications and timelines were fully outlined. For instance, if DAC had specified that it would warrant support to an entity for a cause, it would not empathise the type of support that was intended; such as whether it was financial, ethical guidance or training. The efficacy of the oversight function was contingent to the quality of transparency received. A hurdle expressed by DAC was that the template of funds received had derived from National Treasury (NT) and was not self- derived. This equated that specification of the needs of the entities could not be requested from NT first and then it would be allocated funds accordingly; instead NT would warrant the Department funds that it had considered suitable for the Department, which would result in the unintended consequence of neglecting well –meaning projects. However, the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture requires clarity on submitted remedial action and its revision should specify what exact measures would be done, how it would be conducted and by whom for the sake of accountability.
Mr Mahlangu requested clarity on the four indicators that were not corrected as per final APP 2017/18 for Programme 3 on page 37.
Ms Morare replied that AGSA had requested of the Department to include the Technical Indicator Description (TID) within its annexure once the targets were submitted. This request was made, because the stipulated APP was limited, but the TID could serve as a source of information. Thus, if the TID had omitted explanation, the indicator was therefore lacking or non- existent. The four indicators that were not corrected for Programme 3 pertained to the number of public arts; viz. the kind of support was not specified or well defined, the financial support for Community Arts Centre and refurbishment had not received a listing and the TID had not specified the procedure to be followed regarding the appointment of beneficiaries.
The Chairperson appreciated the discussion with the AGSA and has noted the desire for a strengthen relationship with the AGSA up until 2019.
The Chairperson said this was the first leg of review of Annual Performance Plans (APP) and Strategic Plans of the entities and agencies of the Department of Arts, Culture and Heritage (DAC). Since 2014, the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture found it peculiar that DAC merely had 2-3 people in charge of its entities, yet 80% of the budget allocation was dispersed to it. Hence, the Committee made a collective decision to focus on the success of the entities by revising its logistical operations. Preceding 2014, the Department seemed oblivious to the operational activities of its entities. Therefore, to ensure that it no longer perpetuated the arm’s length approach to its entities the Committee had requested of DAC to present an overview prior to each presentation by its entity or agency.
Department on Arts and Culture (DAC)
Ms Kelebogile Sethibelo, Deputy Director General: Institutional Governance, Department of Arts and Culture (DAC), gave an overview of its entity, the National English Literary Museum (NELM). As at the 3rd quarter of 2016/17, 54% of the targets were achieved whilst 46% remained unachieved. This had reflected a steady decline of performance for the same quarter since the former years, viz. in 2013/14 NELM had achieved 85% of its Annual Performance Plan (APP); in 2014/15 NELM had achieved 80% of its APP, and in 2015/16 NELM had achieved 74% of its APP.
The Income trends for the 3rd quarter over a four year period, 2013- 2017, were as follows: in 2013/14 the total income amounted to R9.5 million that included R8.1 million from government grants and R1.3 million were self- generated income; in 2014/15 the total income amounted to R9.1 million that included R8.6 million from government grants and R444 000 were self- generated income; in 2015/16 the total income amounted to R9.9 million that included R9 million from government grants and R893 000 were self- generated income, and for the current 2016/17 the total income amounted to R2.4 million that included R2.3 million from government grants and R102 000 were self- generated income. Expenditure trends for the agency had fluctuated between surpluses and deficits for the same time period. NELM had an expenditure in the 3rd quarter in 2013/14 amounting to R9.3 million, which resulted in a surplus of R195 000; in 2014/15 the expenditure was also R9.3 million, which resulted in a deficit of R264 000; in 2015/16 the expenses inflated to R10.2 million that entailed a R277 000 deficit and within the current financial year 2016/17 the expenditure was R2.3 million, which entailed a surplus of R164 000. According to Auditor General South Africa, NELM received a qualified audit report outcome in 2013/14, qualified with findings in 2014/15 and again in 2015/16 had received an audit outcome that was qualified with findings.
Ms Sethibelo concluded with issues for noting by the Portfolio Committee, such as the audit fees; the mandate of NELM; the name change process; Council term, and issues of governance. The status on the audit fees was ongoing, due to litigation by the AGSA concerning outstanding Audit fees. The entity had begun a process of public participation regarding its change of name that was mandatory since the museum shall accommodate other languages as well. The governance issues were resolved with assistance by the intervention by the Department. Working relations between Council and Management. This emanated after two council members incurred irregular expenditure during the time of travelling to the meetings. This was recorded in the 2015/16 Annual Report and it created tension between Council and management. Subsequently, a request for intervention was received from the Director. The Department intervened on the matter and attended a meeting between Management and Council where the matter was discussed. Within that particular meeting, the Council dealt with the matter and the expenditure was condoned. Another issue of governance was that there was lack of cohesion amongst Council Members themselves. The status regarding the matter was that the Department had intervened and held a meeting with Council to deal with challenges faced by the Council. It appears that the tensions that existed have eased.
Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) asked the Department if it had agreed that the entity was, indeed, under-funded?
Ms Sethibelo replied that the funding that NELM had received was insufficient.
National English Literary Museum (NELM)
Ms E Dido, Council Member, National English Literary Museum, noted that the Strategic Focuses of 2015- 2019 included preparation for the move to new building in 2016, which took place in June 2016, and widening the scope of the museum to include the literatures of the historically disadvantaged languages of South Africa, which would include the addition of locally spoken Afrikaans and isiXhosa.
Strategic outcome oriented goal 1 (2015) was to manage the institution within the framework of sound corporate governance. The outcome was that in preparation for this, NELM was modernising its operations, building staff capacity and nurturing relationships that add value to its Programmes and increase their impact across society. Strategic outcome oriented goal 2 (2015) was to be a pre-eminent source of expertise in South African literary heritage. The outcome was that NELM continues to collect, preserves documents and researches South African literary heritage. Also, consideration of collaboration with similar literary and heritage institutions was sought after to have enhanced this goal. Strategic outcome goal 3 (2015) was to promote the understanding and enjoyment of South African Literature. The outcome hereof had faced a challenge of awareness of the existence of NELM. Scholars, in particular, were ignorant of NELM as a national asset.
The Annual Performance Plans 2017/18 included the need for Sound Governance; for NELM to have become a Centre of expertise, and a promoter of understanding and enjoyment of South African Literature. Challenges faced were the inability to easily access the public for the sake of awareness, as this had also impacted the ability to reach the communities for public comment of the change of name that NELM was to undergo, due to the incorporation of new languages. Subsequently, NELM had kick-started the process by submitting suggestions internally amongst its management, of which the proposals were set to be released in the public domain for comment. However, given the geographical dispensation it may prove to reach most locals for commentary. Expenditure trends included an additional allocation of R2 million in 2017/18 for the valuation of heritage assets (over 100 000) to have complied with GRAP 103.
Ms Dido concluded with the grievous concern that NELM had for noting to the Committee. NELM was currently undergoing litigation with the Auditor- General South Africa. The Auditor-General alleges that for the period 2010 to 2015, NELM had not paid any audit fees. The accumulative amount outstanding that it had claimed for was R2 097 560.39. Since NELM had paid only 1% of the quotations given in lieu of Section 23 (4), (5) and (6) of the Public Audit Act; summons was issued to NELM in March 2016. The Public Audit Act warrants that National Treasury settles the balances, of which it had, but the Auditor General fails to acknowledge its receipt. Subsequently, NELM had filed a notice to defend, of which the matter was ongoing.
The Chairperson commented that regarding page 15 a challenge of insufficient public awareness of the existence of the museum amongst scholars was verbally cited, but elaboration regarding the nature of the challenge was omitted. What kind of challenge was posed? Were financial constraints the root- cause or was there lack of support to adequately market the existence of the museum? It was imperative that all of the information that would implicate the entity be included. Furthermore, during the verbatim, it was later corrected as “a statement of intent”, of which anyone who have had not heard it being said would be oblivious too. Thus, it was essential that submitted documentation was quality- checked before its submission to the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture, since following its submission it automatically became public information. Regarding the change of name, it was hoped that the Department had extended the necessary guidance pertaining to the matter, because changing the official name of an entity was within the mandate of the DAC. Thus, DAC was fully aware of the processes involved. The changing of name of any governmental institution was quite a delicate process and should be approached with the necessary sensitivity and tact. If the proper legal processes were not duly followed a possible repercussion would entail that the public rejects the proposed new name and if so, it could provoke unnecessary legal disputes.
Mr Mahlangu appreciated the presentation, but expressed a need for the entity to quality check the documentation before its presentation to Parliamentarians, because a minor error was found on it. Secondly, NELM was a national museum, but seemingly the entity was localising itself and this was expressed by the need to change its name, due to the inclusion of the locally spoken Afrikaans and isiXhosa languages. Additionally, how would the inclusion of Afrikaans affect the National Afrikaans Taal Museum? The Afrikaans Taal Museum encompassed the language in its entirety nationally and may be affected, due to prioritisation of preference of ownership of content. Even though the intent of the Minister of the Arts and Culture could be interpreted as well meaning, due to the inclusion of the other two languages that had also demographically dominated the area of its location, it appears that NELM had not effectively convinced the need for the change of name. On page 23, the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework indicates a division for donations. Where did the donations derive from, and upon receipt had the protocol for donations by National Treasury (NT) been adhered too? The Portfolio Committee could not support the approach taken by NELM regarding its change of name, because it was a national public entity that was to have conducted public hearings first and should not have kick-started the input- process internally amongst staff- members. It was also peculiar that problems with the expected public hearings were foreseen, as though it was devised to have been a sheltered process. Ultimately, the entity was financed by public funds, and if the proper procedures were not followed like it should it could face a constitutional test, if someone was to take the entity to task. Notwithstanding that DAC was meant to have guided the procedure from its onset. However, the change of name appears to be undertaken in a confidential manner as though it was merely an internal decision.
Ms Tsoleli appreciated the presentation and also expressed concern for the manner in which the change of name had occurred. The cited process was actually done in the opposite manner that it should have been followed. Also, it was impossible to have avoided politics regarding the execution of the change of name, because every daily activity was affected by politics. For instance, the prices of daily commodities were directly influenced by political decisions irrespective if consumers were apolitical, actively involved or had a limited political stance. The Department should advise its entities on this matter, particularly if lawful court cases were to be prohibited. The latter was essential to endeavour, especially since the integrity of the entity was already at risk of implication due to the pending court case with AGSA, and it should provoke extra caution regarding the conduct of logistics. Once a name was settled upon there may be objections and it could raise contentions, but this was inevitable and perhaps predictable due to underlying bias. However, in such as case the objections arose possibly due to misunderstanding, ignorance, intolerance or discontentment, because it was impossible to please every civilian simultaneously. However, court cases or disputes should not emerge as a result of negligence of public hearings or explicit exclusivity. Secondly, the issue of incorporating additional languages may need to be bench- marked. The Afrikaans Taal Museum had included Sesotho as an additional language and its profit margin had not declined, but maintained sustenance. Other official languages were slowly being added too. The stance taken was that the languages spoken within the geographical area of its location would be added first, followed by the other national official languages. However, NELM could adopt this stance by also implementing a benchmark and learning of the rate or manner to tactfully include new languages. Any approach should bore in mind the mandate of transformation.
Mr T Makondo (ANC) echoed that the issue of changing the name might be troublesome if the process was indeed kick-started internally, because such process was not the appropriate protocol at all. It was not a matter for management to decide, because NELM was a public entity that was financed by public funds. If NELM was unaware of the due legal processes, DAC should be in good stead to assist accordingly. Secondly, the overview that DAC had provided regarding the 3rd quarter performances since 2013 had not indicated if the Annual Performances were met within each year. However, since only 54% of targets had been achieved thus far, would NELM be capable of sufficing its Annual Targets by the end of the financial year? Thirdly, why had over-expenditure and subsequently a deficit incurred in the previous financial year?
Lastly, could the dispute with the Auditor General South Africa be elaborated upon and fully clarified? It was understood that NELM was in the process of litigation against AGSA, due to the summons imposed for alleged outstanding debt.
The Chairperson noted that this was the first time that NELM had presented to the Committee and thus clarity on certain terms may be required. Confusion may evoke if terms were meant in a connotative manner, but understood in a denotative sense. Within the Medium-Term Expenditure framework, reflected on page 23, there was a division for Transfer from Reserves, and it posed the question- which reserves were made reference too? Also, what had the ‘Interest and dividends’ comprised of?
Ms Dido answered that the Department had advised guidance throughout the process of the change of name. Initially the steps were cited, but it was not done chronologically and so may have appeared to be done without following protocol. The change of name was in the stage in which the proposed names were in the public domain and the community had added proposals to the names warranted by NELM. As a result, the popular proposals shall be collated. It should be assured that DAC continuously verifies the process as it proceeds.
The Chairperson requested a written description within seven days of the procedure advised by the Department to undertake a change of name inclusive of an indication regarding the point at which NELM was within the process.
Ms Dido verbally consented to a written submission to indicate the point that NELM was at from the advised procedure by DAC. Regarding the inclusion of the Afrikaans language, collaboration with the Afrikaans Taal Museum shall be pursued. NELM noted the consideration of a benchmark regarding the inclusion of other official languages.
Mr Charl Malan, CFO, NELM, explained that NELM had a benefactor in the form of a trust fund called the Babette Taute Trust, of which the interest of that investment was paid to NELM annually. Hence the accounts entailed the receipt of ‘Interest and dividends’. The Babette Taute Trust also constitutes the bulk of the donations, as the balance derived from minor allowances that visitors would place in a donation box at Schreiner House, because the museum does not charge an entrance fee. Secondly, the over- expenditure incurred as a result of the compulsory post-retirement medical aid benefit pay-outs that public servants were entitled to. The Department was in liaison with NT to ensure a once-off payment to suffice totals owed to retired individuals, as opposed to a monthly payment that NELM was liable for. Once NT cleared the debt to retired employees, NELM would start anew regarding ensuring such allowances. However, in the interim NELM was liable for such benefits and accounting for it had incurred the deficit within the last financial year. The over-expenditure was, therefore, not a real value deficit or excessive spending of funds. Thirdly, NELM had appointed an attorney and advocate to legally pursue the allegation of owed funds by AGSA. As the case develops and the closer it arrives to the date of the Court proceeding, the costs of fees tend to escalate. As expressed on page 35, the matter appears simple and clearly resolved or understandable, but yet the AGSA has opted to proceed with its allegation.
The Chairperson asked the CFO to expatiate the dynamics involved, particularly since NELM had deduced its stance as defending an “alleged” amount and in so doing insinuated that the funds were not actually owed.
Mr Malan replied that, with reference to page 35, in terms of the prescription of the Public Audit Act, debt that was older than three years could not be claimed for. Additionally, NELM had proof in writing that National Treasury had paid the balance of the audit fees to AGSA. Therefore, the actual outstanding audit fee was less than R100 000, but the matter was yet being pursued by AGSA as though it had not received any payment, which was a grievous concern for NELM. Furthermore, the attorney fees and defence costs were payments that derived from the budget of NELM, and were not sponsored by the DAC.
Mr Mahlangu commented that the Committee was of the view that litigation with the Auditor- General was a peculiar stance to take. Due to the integrity, transparency and respect of communication that should exist between AGSA and government entities for the sake of accountability, the liaison required to resolve a dispute ideally should be a simple matter. Additionally, the notion of “prescribing” debt implied that NELM had faltered to pay the audit fees, and had waited for the relevant time to elapse according to the Act, as means of benefiting from Bad Debts Written Off. Therefore, NELM should not even mention “prescription” in its defence, but should be specific in the sense that it should indicate payment, if any, from both itself as well as the balance of payment made by NT. It should note evidence of payments made by both its CFO and NT to the Auditor General, as means of prohibiting any court case. This was a simple dispute that need not require legal litigation, because it usually made a mountain out a molehill. The Committee had witnessed disputes of litigation in the past within other entities and the results thereof were unpleasant. Therefore, the Portfolio Committee did not approve of a cent spent on costs of litigation or defence. Litigation merely enriched the pockets of the lawyers. Also, to rephrase, had NELM adhered to the regulation required by NT regarding the receipt of donations? This was asked because when most entities received donations it was appropriately indicated as income within their accountancy, but in reality, once spending the funds the prescripts were not followed.
Ms Beverley Thomas, Director, NELM, clarified the litigation dispute by noting that it was the AGSA that had relentlessly pursued the matter. NELM had religiously paid the 1% minimal requirement as per the Public Audit Act, because in real terms there were no funds available to have paid the balance. There were encounters of which the AGSA had charged audit fees of R500 000 in a single year. Yet the total operational costs for the museum in a year amounts to R1 million. Thus, it was impractical to afford such an excessive fee given the level of affordability. Therefore, NELM could defend itself having had paid the 1%. However, this situation could possibly entail that AGSA had faltered to claim the balance of payment by NT. Years ago, long before the dispute arose, NELM had communicated with the AGSA regarding the procedure for claiming the balance of audit fees; in which it was elaborated that there was an expectation of AGSA to claim outstanding amounts directly from NT, as opposed to the expectation that NELM were to have claimed the balance, as such would prohibit fraud and ensure that AGSA received its owed funds directly into its account. Thus far, there was a sense that AGSA had faltered to follow the procedure accordingly. However, even so, National Treasury had paid the outstanding balance of audit fees. Hence, this posed the question, where had the funds gone to in the AGSA account? Therefore, NELM was prepared to defend itself in court regarding this matter. It was a matter of contention that the AGSA were reckless, negligent and offensive regarding its ongoing pursuit of litigation. On the matter of donations, the AGSA was expected to verify usage thereof during auditing, of which no problems regarding its expenditure arose. Also, performance was impeded upon in the first two quarters of the financial year, because the impact of the disruption of relocation was under- estimated when the APP were initially devised. The relocation occurred in April 2016, but unpacking was merely completed now. However, NELM had currently caught up to 70% achievement of its indicators. It should be emphasised that this was the first year in which NELM achieved less than the benchmark of 75% performance for the 3rd quarter.
Mr Makondo asked that if NELM were of the view that it had not owed AGSA any other balance of funds, what would it attest to as the cause for the bill to have reached an outstanding amount of R2 097 560.39? In other entities, there had existed instances in which the AGSA would spend excessive time beyond its initial allocation, because the entity had faltered to submit all of the required documentation. This usually resulted in a bill inflated beyond the initial quotation. Thus, since audit fees were approximately R500 000 annually, how had the R2 million accumulated? Surely the AGSA and NELM could have diplomatically discussed the issue to resolve.
Mr Malan answered that NELM had paid 1% of the audit fees in accordance to the Public Audit Act since 2010, as reflected on page 35. This 1% equated to R80 000- R90 000. It was assured that when each audit took place, no issue existed that compelled further need to submit documentation, because information to be verified was timeously submitted. If so, it would have reflected in the audit report. Therefore, no additional costs due to non- compliance were incurred.
Ms Thomas agreed that unfortunately the cost of audit fees was as exorbitant as cited, and NELM had communicated to AGSA that its audit fees were excessive and beyond the affordability of the museum. The AGSA at times warranted a verbal estimation and at other times had failed to give estimation at all. On one occasion a written estimation of R300- R400 000 was given for signage, which was initially rejected, due to the extortionate price. The AGSA was told that the request for a signature was as means of acknowledging that the amount was commissioned for despite that the Museum simply could not afford such an asking price. The AGSA responded to the concern that the signature was an obligation. The invoice was eventually signed along with a written notification beneath it reflecting NELM consents to1% of the stipulated quotation. Since the audit fees by AGSA were as high as it was, NELM would never be able to pay the full balance in reality.
Ms Sethibelo noted that the concern of expensive audit fees arose in the CFO Forum of the Department. The Department and its CFO had prioritised this particular matter under review.
Mr Makondo asked why the Department had allowed the dispute to reach the point that it has, because every letter written and other forms of defence in the process of litigation had cost money? Even the R2 milllion that was contested shall prove insignificant to the ultimate cost that shall be evoked once the entire dispute was resolved legally. Had DAC intervened at any point as a preventative measure?
The Chairperson asked if an amount could be envisaged regarding the ultimate cost of the litigation?
Mr Malan replied that the attorney fee was granted at a 50% discount of the normal fee; therefore, the cost was only R20 000, as opposed to R40 000. The total cost was envisaged to be R150 000. However, given the extent of evidence, it was anticipated that the case would be won, and once that occurred AGSA shall be liable for the payment of the attorney fees and defence expenditure.
The Chairperson commented that DAC should have intervened from the onset of the dispute, lest it would have reached this tense stage. It should be reminded that litigation was financed by taxpayers’ money, which equated that having had reached such point was completely unacceptable. It should be established that the entities and agencies of the Department should finance proceedings of litigation out of its own finances, as opposed to utilising the grants that were transferred to it, because such funding derived from public funds. Once indifference was received from AGSA following the communication of inability to accommodate its expensive audit fees within the budgets, NELM should have approached the Department as remedial action. NELM was accountable to the Department, thus it was liable to address grievances that was beyond its control. It was, therefore, not viable that DAC continued to have an arm’s length approach.
Ms Thembi Malao, Director: Entities Management, DAC, explained that the matter was thoroughly addressed in the Department by means of the CFO Forum, in which National Treasury was fully engaged. Ultimately, the situation was a dispute between the office of the Auditor- General in the Eastern Cape and NT, even though the arrear balances had been sent to NELM. The AG of Eastern Cape had claimed that it had not received payment for the balance of audit fees, in spite of NT forwarding the proof of payment to the office responsible for the allegation.
The Chairperson responded that the litigation dispute was actually even simpler than initially revised. If National Treasury had paid the balance of the audit fees and the proof thereof was sent to the Eastern Cape office of the Auditor General, it was definitive that documentation had existed that could prove its payment. If so, that same documentation could be delivered personally to assure all stakeholders involved, particularly as it would warrant witnesses. The Chairperson then volunteered to personally deliver the receipts in person on behalf of NELM to the AG office in the Eastern Cape. Why had such a simple matter become as complicated as it has?
Ms Malao explained that it was via means of intervention that the matter reached the point that it had, as opposed to the notion that DAC was insouciant of the dispute and its subsequent allegation. The Department had liaised with the Eastern Cape office of the AG as well, and this had included the forwarding of proof of payment.
The Chairperson further questioned why litigation was yet underway if proof of payments had been sent? It was commendable that DAC had, indeed, intervened in a situation that seemingly lacked diplomacy. However, even so, how was it possible that the dispute yet required Court action for resolve? The R20 000 incurred for attorney fees could have been delegated for a project that could have beneficially served the public’s empowerment, as opposed to comprising of expenditure to have convinced the validity of an action that already had proof. Therefore, since proof was available, what was the bone of contention, if any? The Committee would appreciate transparency regarding the actual problem, if any; as delay, expenditure and animosity was incurred to rectify a situation that has not required litigation. The Committee had not intended to express its oversight function as means of policing, but was prepared to use its authority to enable support in the necessary areas.
Ms Malao answered that the Eastern Cape office of the Auditor General had already received the documentation encompassing the proof of payments made.
The Chairperson concluded that NELM might have needed to specify that it had long-term intentions to incorporate the other official South African languages, but had begun with a short- term process of kick-starting with the inclusion of locally spoken official languages of its geographical location. The work undertaken by NELM was appreciated, especially since it involved particulars that would provoke conversations of reconciliation amongst civilians. The Department of Arts and Culture and its entities were crucial to the vision of a non-racist, non- sexist and prosperous South Africa more than ever.
Department on Arts and Culture (DAC)
Ms Sethibelo noted that Blind SA was a recipient of funds by DAC, but it was a non- profit organisation and was not an official entity of the Department. Thus, no supplication of APP or Strategic Plans were made, but the Department does review its delivery, as the NPO executes programmes for reading and writing, which were of interest to DAC. BlindSA does submit a report outlining the expenditure of the funds received from the Department on an annual basis.
The Chairperson noted that it was acceptable that no overview presentation existed, as BlindSA was a NPO that was not an official entity of the Department. It was especially pleasing that since funds were given to the organisation, follow-up regarding the execution of the funds were made.
Ms V Mogotsi (ANC) asked that given the mandatory equity ratios for employment, which were that 2% of governmental workforce should comprise of those with disabilities, had the Department ever considered to contact BlindSA for recruitment for its members? Several government departments and its entities were struggling to suffice the mandatory 2% disabled employee ratio. Did DAC have a relationship with the NPO in the sense of empowering it into the market place and thus create self- sustainable individuals, as opposed to mere assistance by donations of funds? This was particularly significant regarding the recruitment of young disabled citizens, such as the blind in this case; had DAC considered empowering its young members as active members of the economy, due to employment by the Department?
Dr G Grootboom (DA) asked against what policy had DAC granted BlindSA funding? What was the policy governing or directing its relation with BlindSA?
Ms Sethibelo answered that the Department had various funding schemes that awards NPOs funding should the organisations meet the eligibility criterion. For instance, a NPO that exercised culture – promotion could approach the Department for resources as well. The procedure was that the NPO was to have submitted a Business Plan for funding, after which funds may or may not be awarded once scrutinised. Currently, DAC had not recruited prospective employees from BlindSA, but the advice warranted to pursue such was noted.
Blind South Africa (BlindSA)
Mr Jace Nair, CEO BlindSA, explained the Annual Performance Plans (APP) of 1 April 2017- 31 March 2018 by elaborating on each Goal/ APP, its activities, the relevant performance indicators and the outputs thereof.
The Total Budget for 2017/18 amounted to R18 439 301.25; however, the allocation by DAC for 2017/18 was R8 315 000. The budget per objective/Programme were as follows: Objective 1: Governance and Administration costs R2 529 700.00; Objective 2: Accessible Publications amounts to R8 188 300; Objective 3: Social Rehabilitation shall be R4 470 501; Objective 4: Vocational Rehabilitation was R1 250 000.25, and Objective 5: Educational Rehabilitation would be R2 000 800.
Objective 1: Governance and Administration.
The Performance Indicators of, Objective 1.1 Good Governance, were to have had meeting documentation and to have convened meetings, of which the outcomes were that BlindSA held regular meetings resulting in the Blind SA Constitution, and it was compliant with legislation.
Objective 1.2 Strengthening Member Organisations
Performance Indicators included having mentorship guidelines; implementation plan; resource toolkits, and M&E tools. The Output thereof included that Organizational capacity assessment was undertaken and Capacity Building Workshops were held
Objective 2: Social Cohesion and Empowerment
The Performance Indicator was the publication of the Blind SA catalogue to become accessible and its output was exceeded, since 69 750 master pages was published, whilst 1 042 000 duplicate copy pages were published too, as well as several new book titles.
Objective 3: Social Rehabilitation
Objective 3.1 Advocacy comprised of Performance Indicators within Legislation and Policies; the private sector, due to their general insouciance, and by means of statements in the media, inclusive of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The outputs had exceeded expectation by means of promotion and Protection of Human Rights; the Marrakesh Treaty, and by instruments that operated within international, Regional and National levels.
Objective 3.2 Orientation and Mobility comprised of Performance Indicators that were to devise a database of persons requiring social rehabilitation, and conclude norms and standards that included having Orientation and Mobility Programmes. The outputs thereof included education regarding being guided by sighted persons, which was applicable to sighted people as they might have the tendency to presumptuously dictate to blind people by grabbing them, which may startle the blind and could cause derailment, in spite of the good intentions meant by it. Other outputs include the ability to travel independently; recent ETDP SETA Accreditation; performing basic kitchen and household skills without the need for sighted persons, and basic communication skills.
Objective 3.3 Braille literacy, training and promotion comprised of Performance Indicators that were to collate a database of persons requiring social rehabilitation, and to have devised norms and standards for Braille Training programmes. The output thereof was the ETDP SETA Accreditation. It should be noted that most texts in Braille in South Africa was in English, followed by Afrikaans, whilst there were limited texts available in the other official South African languages. This had posed as a challenge, because it cannot be assumed that the majority of blind citizens were English- spoken, as many who were fluent in other African languages had become blind later in life.
Objective 4: Vocational Rehabilitation
The Performance Indicators were to devised databases for the unemployed, those successfully placed in employment, and to have had registers of Workshops. The outputs were as follows: there were Placements in Learnerships and Skills Programmes; placement in employment, both in the Public and Private Sector; SIYB Training Programme was engaged, and some blind individuals were enabled to have started their own businesses.
Objective 5 Educational Rehabilitation
The Performance Indicators comprised of having various databases, viz. of parents of blind children; of Early Childhood Development (ECD) services and programmes; Learners attending schools and by raising awareness, as well as participation within School Governing Boards (SGB). The outputs met the criterion by means of referral to ECD Programmes; assistance to learners to travel to schools in Gauteng; Increase incurred of assessable textbooks and LTSM; adult learners registered at AET Centres, as most adults born blind would have grade 2 as the maximum level of education, and recent access into the Post School Education and Training sector (PSET).
Mr Nair concluded that the alignment of BlindSA objectives had incorporated Seven of the Department’s 10 Point Plan and had 14 outcomes of the National Development Plan 2030. The greatest challenge for BlindSA was the issue of resources and under- funding.
Mr M Rabotapi (DA) questioned whether sign language training was being done for the deaf? Also, was Braille training provided for adults who had become blind later in life, due to illness?
Ms Tsoleli welcomed the presentation and had asked if BlindSA had a comprehensive database stipulating every blind citizen or permanent resident of South Africa? Secondly, in the constituency of Bloemfontein there were blind employees whom had occupied container spaces, of which denoted a sub-par working environment, because there were no windows and thus no access to proper ventilation. However, these containers were not far apart in distance, yet blind employees were working in isolation. Was a list available specifying an organisation to implore the services of, for those blind employees, as means of ensuring collaboration amongst them and to address their special needs? Thirdly, could DAC account for the criterion that had informed the financial allocations to BlindSA? For instance, in Basic Education there existed criteria for the allocation of funds to each school in accordance to its quintile, whilst a different criterion was used for Special Needs Schools. Similarly, when the grant was awarded to BlindSA by DAC, a particular criterion may have required adherence, if so, what were the specifications? Fourthly, regarding the Bill that BlindSA had referenced, the Portfolio Committee would need to convene with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to decipher how close it was to ratification. Fifthly, how did BlindSA effectively reach out to every blind citizen across the country? Next, it was pleasing that Early Childhood Day-care Centres (ECD) were noted amongst the agenda of BlindSA, as it was a concern not only for Basic Education, but for Social Development as well. Lastly, what was the relationship with and role of Social Development with the NPO?
Mr Mahlangu requested that future documentation be thoroughly quality checked and then highlighted errors.
Mr Grootboom asked if a budget was available for guide dogs or was there an expectation to receive it on the basis of charity?
Ms Mogotsi questioned if the usage of guide dogs for scholars could be extended to after school hours? This was applicable to blind scholars who had access to guide dogs at their affluent schools in the cities of Gauteng, but were prohibited from having the dogs accompany them to their domestic homes that were located in the townships. The MEC of Education within Gauteng Province had undertaken work to ensure that the blind scholars would have further access to the guide dogs that the schools had provided for beyond school hours. However, could the schools located in the townships also benefit from the usage of guide dogs for their blind scholars? Secondly, was BlindSA accountable to the Department of Social Development regarding norms and standards, or had it operated entirely on its own accord?
Mr Nair answered that the acquisition of statistics in the country was a major challenge, especially regarding the disabled, particularly for the blind or partially sighted persons. During the last decade, numerous censuses were held, but it had asked particular types of questions, which had resulted in outcomes that were not as conclusive as expected. The documentation thereof reflected that at least 15% of the population had a disability; of which at least half of those had a visual impairment. The Washington Group Survey indicated that there were just over 500 000 people in South Africa who were blind. For every one blind person, it was estimated that there were at least three other persons with low-vision or partial sight. Therefore, having had proper statistics in South Africa regarding this disability was a challenge, notwithstanding that it had been raised in various forums across the country, particularly within the job market. A Task Team had recently been created along with StatsSA to devise mechanisms on collating the data applicable to the blind and disabled. However, BlindSA and other organisations applicable to the blind relied on referrals from the Department of Health (DoH), hospitals, clinics, schools, loved ones of blind individuals, as well as blind and partially sighted people themselves. BlindSA engaged in many public talks, and utilises media in the sense of radio, television and radio to encourage those affected to contact their local organisation for the sake of accessing services. Currently, 120 organisations in South Africa provided services for the blind and partially sighted persons. Some of the organisations were quite locally- based in the various municipalities, whilst others operated on provincial and national levels. Some of organisations collaborated with others, whilst other organisations preferred to work singlehandedly, which was a depiction of the country that was inherited. When organisations approached BlindSA for the sake of membership within it, they would firstly be assisted with meeting the prerequisites necessary, which encapsulated capacity- building as well. This ensured norms and standards within the sector; since it was discovered that many organisations had begun with common cause and operated well, but over time friction amongst members caused division, resulting in factions that began new organisations whilst the remaining members were left behind struggling to remain operational. Thus, the organisations had required empowerment in terms of enlightenment of the requirements of governance, administrative requirements, and compliance requirements as well as education of duty towards their members.
There was a Society for the Blind in Bloemfontein that could be addressed for assistance for the employees within the constituency that were blind. Additionally, if individuals had an interest to set up an organisation that could communicate with BlindSA regarding the requisite protocol, but it was preferred that if structures had existed that it would be strengthen with the necessary support. Although the Department could answer the queries regarding the funding model used to award BlindSA, it should be borne in mind that one of the core functions of BlindSA was the assistance of reading, writing and the promotion of Braille, which were operations of great interest to DAC. Arts and Culture was synonymous with many blind people, as many would pursue arts and crafts as methods of financial sustenance. These endeavours also served as the catalyst of involvement with the Department.
The communication strategy utilised all forms available; viz. social media such as FaceBook and twitter, television, radio, presentations to both communities and corporations etc. Next, the South African Guide Dog Association did guide dogs training. Blind individuals were usually given options for mobility, of which using the white cane was the cheapest form of independence training. Possession of a guide dog usually included issues from the Council, the neighbourhood concerned, the acceptance of the dog in the community of location, and other factors beyond the control of the blind owner. The preference was, thus, usually white cane training. The number of persons to be trained with a guide dog was usually limited, due to cost. BlindSA was not aware of any incident in which scholars had the privilege of using a guide dog at school, but was denied its usage domestically. It should clarify that generally guide dogs were trained to the individual that it was intended to lead. Thus, if a dog were already trained to lead someone that same dog would refuse to lead another blind person, because there was a difference in the walking style, tone of voice, sound and scent. If there were scholars that were trained with guide dogs, BlindSA was unaware of it, as guide dogs were meant for adults, especially those in employment.
Braille training was offered to adults, but the challenges that it posed were lack of adequate resources, and the division of available resources amongst the demand for it. BlindSA was currently not coping with addressing the demand for Braille training, this derived from the financial limitation that impeded upon the human resource capacity. Even though BlindSA had attempted to provide many services to citizens across the country, but it was not practical. There were three boarding schools for the blind in Gauteng, of which one was a primary school and two were comprehensive schools. The schools received support from BlindSA in the form of training, assistance devices, toiletries and transport to learners who were unable to revert home weekends. There was an estimation according to the Department of Social Development that about 250 000 blind children were not attending school. Additionally, there were very few children who were in mainstream schools.
Social Development does have norms and standards for different services, but currently there are none for Braille.
Ms Sethibelo answered that the Department allocates funding on the basis of books and publishing. Even though BlindSA had worked with other departments, such as the Department of Basic Education (DBE), Department of Health (DoH) and Department of Social Development (DSD), it was merely DAC that had provided financial support.
Ms Tsoleli clarified that the question was about what particulars informed the funding, such as what were the prerequisites that BlindSA required aherence for?
Ms Sethibelo replied that DAC funded BlindSA on the basis of books and publishing, as the other factors of the NPO pertained to other departments. However, the Department was told to cut costs, of which it had executed such within its own Programmes, but DAC had not decreased the funding for its entities or institutions. If the economy improves, DAC shall consider additional funding.
The Chairperson noted that the answer by the Department had lacked depth, because it consistently referenced books and publication. However, BlindSA had noted collaboration with entrepreneurial endeavours, of which the Department also had similar projects within its programmes.
Mr Nair concluded that seeing persons would spend R5 for a pen to write with, but a blind person would require R7 500- R15 000 for a Braille writing machine.
Department on Arts and Culture (DAC)
Ms Sethibelo presented the challenges for the South African Library for the Blind and the measures of intervention taken by the Department, due to the constraints of time. (Please revise attached documentation for amounts involved, such as financial and target performances.) The first challenge was the required funding for the procurement and maintenance of the playback devices, as it was previously provided for. The intervention by Department was a recommendation made to National Treasury to approve funding of R1 036 000 for playback devises. The second challenge was the need to upgrade and refurbish the SALB building. DAC had noted a delay in upgrading and refurbishing the building. However, the DAC Infrastructure Committee delegated the Infrastructure Unit to have engaged the Library to address the concerns. The third, the audit fees by AGSA were posing a challenge to the institution due to shortage of funds. The intervention by DAC was continuous engagement with National Treasury concerning this matter through the CFO Forum of the Department. The fourth challenge was the scarcity of skills relating to the Braille and audio production. Invention regarding such was pursued by SALB itself, viz. it developed an in-house training programme for full-time employed Braille and audio production staff. Knowledge was verified after a year through a formal test. SALB, also, developed training material for all Braille and audio volunteers. A final challenge was disciplinary case that was undertaken against an employee, of which the employee was formally charged for gross negligence and absenteeism.
South African Library for the Blind
Mr Francois Hendrikz, Director, South African Library for the Blind, noted the six major challenges. A challenge was that since the library required scarce skills for operational function it had posed as a difficulty to recruit and retain the appropriate candidates for employment. Another challenge was the constraints of the building. Also, there was a need to remain a national funding priority; because budget cuts and increased funding liabilities had impacted operational quality. Legal compliance (operational and financial) posed as a challenge. Fifthly, the National Copyright Legislation and International access to reading material, i.e. the Marrakesh Treaty posed as challenge, due to the stance that South Africa had taken. Moreover, the technology required was obligatory imported, as it was unavailable locally and thus prove significantly expensive, particularly given the current exchange and dwindling rand-currency.
SALB achievements, expressed as opportunities, were the following: it was the only National Library for the Blind in Africa; National collaboration initiatives existed with other organisations for the blind; specialised training and skills were provided for and enhanced by involvement in SALB; it comprised of unique collections, both on the digital and tactile platform, and SALB have had international collaboration by means of IFLA and WIPO.
The Income of SALB for 2017/18 had amounted to R22 421 000. Its expenditure equated the same total, viz. R22 421 000. Thus, there were none instances of over or under expenditure.
An overview of the Annual Performance Plans (APP) included seven goals.
- Support: To support the SALB Board, the Director and the Management team of the Library through the recording, reporting and provisioning of management information and provisioning of a competent workforce.
- Collection development: To develop a balanced collection of reading material and to render and expand library and information services to blind and visually impaired people.
- Braille production: To produce Braille reading material in compliance with acceptable Braille rules and standards.
- Audio production: To produce quality audio reading material in compliance with acceptable rules and standards.
- Tactile production: To develop and standardise Braille and tactile books to improve the quality of the reading experience.
- Playback devices: To prepare and maintain playback devices as well as look after the maintenance of the Library building and vehicles in accordance to the Health & Safety requirements.
- Marketing: To promote the work and activities of the Library through appropriate marketing communication channels.
He noted that 83% of the APP targets had been achieved for the 3rd quarter 2017/18.
The Chairperson asked on what basis funds were allocated? Had National Treasury warranted the funds? Currently, NT did not enquire the amount required by each entity and agency to operate optimally. Instead NT disperses funding as it could afford, after which the budgets require adjustment to.
Mr Mahlangu noted that there were several streams of income of which required elaboration, and asked why had South Africa not ceded to the Treaty?
Ms Malao replied that although it was not intended to have sounded as though responsibility was shifted to someone else, the answer to aforementioned lay in the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
Dr W Rowland, Chair of the Board, SALB, noted that accommodation for the blind within school libraries were an issue that should be reviewed.
The Chairperson requested that the financial query be responded to in writing and commended SALB for the impressive work that it had executed.
The meeting was adjourned.
- AGSA presentation on Arts and Culture Review of the 2017-18 APP
- South African Library for Blind Performance Overview as at third quarter of 2016/17
- South African Library for Blind Strategic Plan 2019 & Annual Performance Plan 2017/18 presentation
- Blind SA
- Blind SA Strategic Plan 2019 & Annual Performance Plan 2017/18 presentation
- National English Literary Museum Strategic Plan 2019 & Annual Performance Plan 2017/18 presentation
- National English Literary Museum Overview as at third quarter of 2016/17
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