Committee Members met for the first hour, after which the Department of Women was meant to attend for a discussion on their Annual Report. Because the Department was running late, the meeting was adjourned early, leaving time only for a presentation on the analysis and assessment of the Report by the Committee’s Content Advisor, and a Researcher for the Parliamentary Research Unit.
Their assessment found that the same issues that emerged in the 2015/2016 year emerged this year.
Key areas of concern were the disproportionate number of targets met to the amount of the budget spent, non-compliance with the Preferential Procurement Framework Act, ineffective leadership and management, especially since the action developed was not adhered to. Leadership also fell short regarding performance reporting and compliance with laws and regulation. The assessment also identified that the “revised strategic priorities and intentions” listed in the Annual Report need to be clarified, as well as the ways in which the Department’s programmes help to set targets.
On financial performance, the DOW received R196.9 million of which R69.9 million was a transfer payment to the Commission for Gender Equality (GCE). Therefore, DOW had an operating budget of R127 million, which was six million Rand more than in previous financial year.
The Department incurred irregular expenditure of R6.3 million and fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounted to R32 000 for the year 2016/2017. Finding of the Auditor General show that goods and services below R500 000 had been obtained without required quotations. Preferential Procurement Framework Act also not complied with and no effective measures to prevent wasteful and fruitless expenditure taken.
Importantly, the issue of how government had been convinced to adopt gender sensitive planning and costs of campaigns and programmes also emerged as pressing questions requiring responses by the Department. Members of the Committee also raised the following areas of concern requiring a response by the Department: consequence management for not meeting targets, holding the Department of Women accountable, amount of time left and the full programme of Parliament, money spent on dialogues, engagement with women and youth and the lack of a progress report on the implementation of the directive given by the President to monitor the economic cluster.
Finally, it was suggested that the Department be held accountable monthly and the Content Advisor said it was the Committee’s political prerogative and could be requested. The Committee decided to submit a formal resolution in this regard.
The Committee Secretary informed Members that the Chairperson was not present and Ms N Bhengu (ANC) was nominated and elected as Acting-Chairperson for the meeting.
The Acting Chairperson requested that the meeting be shortened and not carry on until 20h00, as indicated on the agenda. Researcher and Content Advisor introduced, as they would be providing an assessment on the Department of Women’s (DOW) Annual Report for 2016/2017.
Presentation on the Assessment of the 2016/2017 Annual Report by the Researcher and Content Advisor
Ms Kashifa Abrahams, Content Advisor, provided an overview of the presentation. She provided a layout: her colleague, Ms C Levendale, (Research Unit) would provide an analysis of the budget and programmes and Ms Abrahams would discuss strategic priorities and Budget Review and Recommendation issues from the previous financial year. According to Ms Abrahams, the same issues as before had emerged.
Ms Levendale started with a look at Annual Department Overview 2016/2017. Looking firstly at key considerations, she looked at the budget presented by the DOW in 2016 but in February 2017 a revised Annual Performance Plan was presented, where new targets were introduced and some old targets restated. This refocused the work of programmes two and three. Despite this, most targets under these core delivery programmes have not been yet. Under these, there were 22 targets and only two had been met.
Turning to the overview of assessment and financial performance, the DOW received R196.9 million of which R69.9 million was a transfer payment to the Commission for Gender Equality (GCE). Therefore, DOW had an operating budget of R127 million, which was six million Rand more than in previous financial year. Looking at allocations for programmes, key cost drivers include compensation of employees and goods and services.
Table 2, “Expenditure”, illustrates that, for Programme 1, the actual expenditure was R88.4 million (99.7% of the budget). For programme 2, actual expenditure was R9.5 million (90% of the budget), for Programme 3, the actual expenditure was R26.7 million (96.3%). Therefore, only 98.2% of the entire budget was spent. Leaving a surplus of 2.2%. A portion of the budget was also transferred from Programme 2 to Programme 3.
On irregular expenditure, DOW incurred irregular expenditure of R6.3 million and fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounted to R32 000 for the year 2016/2017. Finding of the Auditor General show that goods and services below R500 000 had been obtained without required quotations. Preferential Procurement Framework Act also not complied with and no effective measures to prevent wasteful and fruitless expenditure taken.
Where leadership is concerned, there was no effective or adequate management regarding performance reporting and compliance with laws and regulations. Though an action plan was drafted, this was not effectively implemented and monitored. Senior management could have monitored better. The Audit and Risk Committee has also indicated dissatisfaction with controls, the system of internal controls.
Out of 38 targets set for the year,14 were met and of those 14, 12 targets are in the administration programme. This means that core delivery programmes 2 and 3 have not been met. Therefore, DOW has 36% success rate, despite spending 98% of the budget. There was a disproportionate relationship between spending most of the budget and achieving few targets.
The DOW indicates implementation of plans to make up for under-achievement; such as staff from the Department of Traditional Affairs being partially seconded to assist in developing national policy framework on sanity dignity, under Programme Two, the identification of operational planning weaknesses and finalising the MNE framework. Under Programme Three, the Department has said it will employ MNE experts. Questions raised include: what does it mean that staff were partially seconded and how did they assist? How long are the MNE experts going to be used and at what are the costs involved?
Ms Levendale discussed the human resources of DOW and saw 105 approved posts, of which 99 were filled. Turnover rate was 20.9%, fourteen staff left DOW during the year; five resigned, one was dismissed, one retired and seven were transferred to other public service departments There were 5 misconduct and disciplinary hearings under review and three were under precautionary suspension. Therefore, DOW has performed poorly and needs to improve on meeting targets. Progress on all outstanding reports to Portfolio Committee and the role of seconded staff and MNE experts to be clarified. Non-compliance measures also need to be strengthened.
Ms Abrahams discussed the section of the presentation, titled ‘BRR 2017 key issue for the consideration for the Department of Women’. Two ATTs revised, one in February 2016 and another in February 2017. In March 2016 DOW submitted a revised strategic plan. The purpose of these revisions was to ensure that DOW was on track, however, many changes have taken place, structurally and with regard to human resources. Question raised: how are strategic goals being reached or worked towards?
In October 2014, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) approved start-up organisational structure. Currently, the Minister and Director General referred to “revised strategic priorities and intentions”. However, PC needs clarity i on the intentions. She raised the question of what has changed and where, considering that DPSA and National Treasury allocated funds. Since the formation of the Department, the number of programmes has gone from four to three. Compliance targets are the targets that get met but core programmes have suffered.
On page 26 of the annual report, ‘organisational redesign based on new mandate and revised strategic intentions’, she asked what is this new mandate and what are these revised strategic intentions? The PC needs to know what has changed. How could 61% of targets not be achieved if there has been a new mandate?
Looking at strategic priorities, DOW needs to clarify how programmes help reach broader goals and achieve the vision and mission. Targets cannot be seen in isolation.
Moving on to the priorities for the five years, Ms Abrahams referred to the 2015/2016 Report on the Status of Women in the South African Economy, which provided good recommendations, however, how were these followed in 2016/2017? DOW was criticised for their poor response to these recommendations.
Ms Abrahams pointed out Gender Monitoring Framework (MNE) (surely should be GMF?) has still not been finalised. Why not? In order to mainstream gender, this needs to be done. She raised the following questions: why experts are being brought in when there are qualified government officials? And where is the money being found for this? The PC needs the Department to respond on concerns around the MNE framework; when will it be finalised, when will it be given? She commended DOW for undertaking initiatives and campaigns but concerns about sustainability, outcomes, follow ups on issues raised and what can be said about the partnership with the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE).
Ms Abrahams also wanted to know how the DG succeeded in convincing government to adopt gender sensitive planning. The PC was not once briefed on access to basic services and lacks evidence on women owned enterprises
On policy concerns, DOW needs to inform the PC of how the fourteen targets were achieved moving closer to reaching NDP outcomes and goals.
Evidence for campaigns needs to be provided for the entire year. The Annual Report says little about the Gender Inequality Index and the National Policy Gender Framework; how is gender mainstreaming being pushed forward? Concluding, are questions raised about ideals in the National Development Plan (NDP), Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and Agenda 2063.
Questions raised included evidence regarding economic cluster, to be brought to the PC in the form of a report. The DOW did report to the PC regarding the audit action plan and Budget Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR), but there is a disjuncture between what was reported by DOW, findings of the Office of the Auditor General (AG) and internal audits. Another issue raised was that of officials signing off money where the accounting officer should have. Questions raised were: what were the purposes of these transactions and when will the Chief Financial Officer position be filled? Another question was raised around DOW receiving over R9 million for awareness and what it was spent on? Only Dialogues? Furthermore, around the Sanitary Dignity project, why were other departments, such as the Departments of Health, Basic Education and Social Development, not collaborated with, as opposed to only the Department of Traditional Affairs.
What were the costs of campaigns and how are issued raised there followed up on by DOW? How sustainable are these campaigns? More questions were raised about the financial officer (page 156 of the report) and employees on special leave (page 157 of the report) and performance agreements that have not yet been concluded.
Ms T Stander (DA) enquired about the key achievements and asked if the PC had received any documents pertaining to these.
Ms Abrahams responded by saying that she recalls a pilot report being distributed in Limpopo.
Ms Levendale added by referring to the meeting of 22 August, recalling a question as to why the Cabinet rejected the report. She asked why this was listed as a key achievement if it was rejected.
Ms Abrahams reminded the PC about what the AG said about consequence management and asked why should it take until the end of the financial year to know that the DG is dissatisfied with the report? She asked where the consequence management for not meeting targets has been. There should be consequence management for the persons responsible for meeting targets and the people they report to.
The Acting Chairperson referred to the organisational structure and highlighted achievements of DOW. In the past, units reported to the PC, but this has been inconsistent. No updates about community dialogues and the CGE is doing the work of DOW. She reminded the PC that DOW’s achievements are the PC’s achievements and likewise for their failures.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) expressed disappointed that DOW is not doing their work but the PC is. She suggested that DOW be held accountable monthly, as the PC should ensure that strict measures are taken to ensure they meet targets; perhaps monthly assessments.
Ms M Khawula (EFF) contributed to the discussion in isiXhosa.
Ms D Robinson (DA) agreed with Ms Tseke but expressed concern about the amount of time left. As the case of CGE illustrates, reporting monthly works, however, is there nothing that can be done now?
The Acting Chairperson mentioned the full programme of Parliament, posing a challenge to reporting. However, there was also a need to invite other departments to monitor them.
Ms Abrahams stated that it was political prerogative. Letters could be sent out if the PC wished. She referred to the PC on Police, which met four times a week, therefore, monthly reports can work between now and the end of the financial year. This would require the prerogative of the PC. A request for DOW to report on all programmes and outstanding matters each month can be put through. Alternatively, they could report back alternate monthly according to programmes, however, the PC needs to indicate this.
Ms Robinson suggested a formal resolution be submitted.
The Acting Chairperson allowed for the notion to be seconded and Members agreed. She informed members that the Department was running late.
Ms Abrahams questioned money spent on dialogues, engagement with women and youth, therefore, more reporting on these matters was required. She asked how DOW is working with the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA)? She referred to CGE’s legal clinics and said there is a need to clarify how to engage with stakeholders and communities. She asked where issues raised by women are taken to by DOW?
Ms Tseke mentioned lack of progress report on the implementation of the directive given by the President to monitor the economic cluster. She asked whether the PC has been reported to on this matter.
Ms Abrahams confirmed that no report had been received, though DOW is working on it. How can there be monitoring and evaluations if the system and framework have not been finalised.
Ms Levendale referred to the outline of the organisational design. Though administration is well resourced and well-funded, it remains top heavy. She asked why there are so many positions in human resources but the HR capacity is lacking?
The Acting Chairperson informed Members that they were still waiting for the Minister and DG. A short break was called.
The Department had not yet arrived and informal discussion ensued. At 12 noon, Members agreed to postpone the meeting and noted that, on Tuesday 17 October, they would need to look at the BRR report.
Ms M Chueu (ANC) suggested that the meeting take place via correspondence, that questions and responses be written. She suggested DOW be given a day or two to respond.
Ms Tseke agreed, especially since the meeting was scheduled for the week before. All that was required from the Department was a response.
The meeting was adjourned.
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