The Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency’ Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR), considering the Department of Women in the Presidency’s Annual Report and consequent matters that emerged. In the meeting, it was mostly observations and recommendations of the BRRR that were discussed, however, other concerns were raised and discussed around making the Committee’s interactions with the Department more effective in future.
Central to the discussion were the Department’s relations with the Commission for Gender Equality, monitoring and evaluation, service delivery, achievement of targets, gender mainstreaming across the country and national dialogues. Furthermore, the ‘top heavy’ nature of the organisational structure, the delayed responses of the Department and disparity between expenditure and outcomes met, emerged as key concerns of the Committee. Time constraints of Parliament’s schedule were acknowledged and the Committee brainstormed ways of addressing the many problems in the remainder of the financial year.
Members were asked to forward their recommendations for amendments and the Committee agreed to adopt the report the following day.
Ms Kashifa Abrahams, Committee Content Advisor, opened the meeting, as the Committee Secretary was on leave. She informed members that the Chairperson was not present and Ms N Bhengu (ANC) was nominated and elected Acting-Chairperson for the meeting. The Committee would meet again on 18 October 2017 to adopt the Report.
Draft Budgetary Review Recommendations Report by the Researcher and Content Advisor & Discussion
Ms Abrahams, reminded Members about the list of questions that had been sent to, and acknowledge by, the Public Relations officer at the Department of Women in the Presidency on Wednesday 11 October 2017, as agreed upon in the meeting on 10 October 2017. No questions had been added and the deadline for their response was Friday 13 October 2017. She requested guidance from the Committee as to how to respond to the Department’s reply regarding the Department’s Annual report.
Clarifying that the first twenty pages of the draft were the same as had been presented at the AGM, Ms Abrahams first referred to section 7 (Committee’s Observations and Response) of the BRRR. Highlighting the issue of lack of meeting targets despite spending 98% of the budget, she referred to 7.1 (c) and (d), which emphasised the issue of poor outcomes despite a revised Annual Performance Plan (APP) and the fact that the Department is facing the same challenges as in the previous year (see 7.1 (e)). She concluded section 7 by pointing out that the BRR is about more than just the Annual Report; it is about the quarterly report and oversight, which has pointed to a lack of gender mainstreaming across the provinces.
Ms T Stander (DA) referred to 7.1 (e), where expenditure versus targets met was mentioned, it should be stipulated that the Committee did not know what the Department spent money on and, therefore, this should be raised as a concern and observation. She also added that it is necessary to stipulate that report are not submitted to the Committee and that there is a lack of timeous response by the Department.
Ms Stander also raised concern about procurement processes and tenders not selecting BBEEE. Furthermore, she expressed concern about uncertainty around a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and the lack of accountable accounting officer. Lastly, she mentioned the ‘top heavy’ nature of the Department’s management. She added that, with the bulk of expenditure going towards administration, Human Resources capacity is impacted.
Ms Abrahams confirmed that these issues would be addressed in other sections of the draft report.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) added that observations about the Department be addressed, and matters concerning the CGE.
Ms Abrahams continued to section 7.2 (Policy Imperatives), where she elaborated that the question hoping to be answered was, how do the two out of twenty-two targets met help achieve National Development Plan goals. At section 7.3 (d), she emphasised that problems with the internal audit of 2015/2016 impact 2017/2018. With regards to 7.3 (e), Ms Abrahams recalled that the Department was consistently asked to report on the Internal Audit Plan and BRRR, issues raised were not discussed. At section 7.3 (f), it was mentioned that if the Office of the Auditor General (AG) and audit committee said there were problems with risk management, how could it be listed as an achievement? The Committee’s concern that the Department did not identify or bring to the Committee concerns was the last observation discussed under this sub-section, at 7.3 (h).
At section 7.4.1 (b), Ms Abrahams highlighted the limited budget and suggested that the Department be asked what will be done about reducing consulting with experts. She pointed out how Programmes one and two illustrate the top-heavy nature of the Department’s structure.
At 7.4.2 (Financial performance including donor funding), (b) it was highlighted that the AG said that the Annual Report excluded money received by donors and this needed to change.
At 7.5 (Service delivery performance), the rolling over of unmet targets, the need to inquire into international travel, repeated behaviour of the previous year and monitoring and implementation resolutions were raised.
At 7.6.5 (Programme), Ms Abrahams asked how the Committee should handle late responses from the Department. She suggested addressing this with the Department in November.
Ms Tseke referred to 7.5. (Service delivery performance), and pointed out the need for comments on finances at 7.4.2 and 7.6.1 (c), asking for clarification on the number of vacancies in the CGE, and asked what the Committee’s role in speeding up the process was.
Ms Abrahams referred to page 156 of the Annual Report, and virements.
Ms Stander referred to 7.1 (c) not being specific enough about expenditure being predominantly on administration as opposed to service delivery and core programmes. At 7.4. (Administration), the lack of BBEEE candidates should be stipulated and at 7.4.1 (c), it should be added that a policy stipulating a time frame for dealing with disciplinary cases is required. She suggested that names, dates, deadlines be requested. At 7.4.1 (e), she noted that the organisational review changed nothing and that details around wasteful expenditure of 2015/2016 also be included at 7.4.2 (a).
Ms Stander also suggested that expenditure on administration be emphasised at 7.5 (a) and that the Department needs to analyse expenditure versus impact of dialogues at section 7.5 (d). She also asked what the Department has been commended on at 7.5 (f). at 7.6.5, an d raised the need for an affordable electronic system from which to use, especially where it concerns CGEs, as a platform for them to share information.
She then suggested that it be added to the report, at section 7.5, that the Department engage and collaborate around legislation and that they need to be asked how they are contributing to legislation. Lastly, Ms Stander expressed concern about the need for the Department to run an analysis of gender focal points and budget and asked that this be added to the recommendations.
Ms M Chueu (ANC) raised the issue of the lack of reports around the national dialogues. She said the Department should collaborate with the CGE to and needs to show fruition of those dialogues. The Committee needs to be informed, otherwise there is an impression that there is no need for the CGE. The report needs to reflect this.
The Acting Chairperson pointed out that some cases were referred to the CGE.
Ms Abrahams added that the role of the Department needs to be complimented by the CGE. She also raised the lack of appropriate officials and that reports have only been sent as responses to the Committee’s requests.
Ms Tseke asked for the Department’s clarity on the country reports and added that, at section 7.1 (c), the report needs to reflect the Annual Report’s figures. She also asked if other donors, such as UNICEF, UNWOMEN and Germany, could be added to section 7.4.2.
Ms Crystal Levendale, Committee Researcher, pointed out the increase in international travel.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) suggested that the Department report back on how money was spent and what their plans for dealing with the top-heavy management structure are. How do they plan on restructuring and what is their response to the expenditure on international travel? She also raised the issue of disciplinary procedure, citing an example of the case of a Director General who has been suspended in 2015, but is still being paid. How does the Department plan on resolving issues of suspension? Lastly, she requested that the internal audit be addressed and that time frames be discussed with the Department.
Ms M Khawula (EFF) added to the discussion in isiXhosa.
The time constraints around follow-up meetings with the Department was raised by the Chairperson and the Committee continued to discuss recommendations.
Ms Abrahams, referring to section 8 (Recommendations), suggested that monthly reports take place; a session dedicated to outstanding matters in the remainder of 2017 and those dedicated to programmes thereafter. The biggest question that emerged from this section, was what will the Department’s strategy be to mitigate performance targets and not only financial targets?
At 8.4 (Human Resource), Ms Abrahams asked if the Committee wants the Department to report on outcomes and said that a section devoted to the gender focal concerns would be added to 8.6.2.
Ms Stander suggested that a request to submit reports to the Committee within one month, agreed that the Committee request a calendar of the Department’s events and stipulate the information they require. She also raised the issue of time constraints and suggested that an additional meeting take place or that, for the Committee to serve its oversight function, reports are submitted a week before the meeting is scheduled to take place. This would assist in monitoring and asked whether the Committee could determine the agenda of the Department’s briefings.
Ms van der Merwe agreed with a strategic approach, especially with regards to the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework.
Ms Stander asked whether the Content Advisor and the Researcher could compile a list, to use as a summary as to what has been addressed and requested. This will help and track items on the Committee’s agenda.
The Chairperson added that the, in the next meeting with the Department, questions should be the first on the agenda.
The Committee agreed on the amendments made to the draft BRRR.
Ms Levendale pointed out that the Department has the SMART principle and that changes to the Annual Performance Plan should be referred to the Committee, as per stipulations.
Ms D Robinson (DA) suggested that the Committee request presentations well in advance.
Ms Stander, referring to the Annual Performance Plan, mentioned the lack of communication about changes to the Plan and the need to attach a list of targets. She also asked for clarity on whose responsibility it is to request or provide information; should the Committee request information or should the Department inform the Committee.
The Chairperson concluded the meeting by asking members to forward their recommendations for amendments and the Committee was scheduled to meet the following day.
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