The Auditor-General South Africa briefed the Portfolio Committee on its review of the 2018/19 draft Annual Performance Plan of the Department of the Department of Women in the Presidency. The Auditor-General had not undertaken a review of the Annual Performance Plan of the Commission for Gender Equality. The purpose of the briefing was to provide audit insights on the interim review of the Department’s draft Annual Performance Plan to add value to the oversight role of the Portfolio Committee and to share risks identified during the 2017/18 Status of Records review that might impact the 2017/18 audit outcome, if not attended to.
The Department had not submitted the draft Annual Performance Plan for 2018/19 on 31 January 2018, as agreed in an engagement letter with the Auditor-General. It was submitted on 19 February 2018. The Auditor-General had noted that as non-compliance.
The Department had incurred unauthorised expenditure of R29 575 000 in the previous year. Management had engaged with National Treasury regarding some of the unauthorised expenditure and how it would be dealt with. However, management still needed to implement a number of internal controls to ensure proper oversight. The position of the Chief Financial Officer had been vacant for nine months in the previous financial year, resulting in the lack of effective controls over daily and monthly processing and reconciling of transactions. That had compromised the compilation of credible and reliable financial statements.
The most significant findings included the deviation register which had eight deviations, most of which were not justifiable. The Attorney-General and National Treasury had investigated irregularities within the Supply Chain Management unit and recommendations had been made to the Accounting Officer for implementation.
The Committee asked for clarity on the revisions, amendments, corrections and the consequences of missed targets by the Department. Members asked if the programmes, the key performance areas and the indicators were relevant to the mandate of the Department. What did the Auditor-General do when the Department lied about the attainment of targets? Members expressed concerned about programmes for which the targets were not attained year after year, in particular, the sanitary dignity project.
The Chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality said that the Commission was very unhappy about attempts to amalgamate the Commission for Gender Equality with the Human Rights Commission. The Commission for Gender Equality had made a clear submission opposing the amalgamation and asked for the support of the Portfolio Committee. It appeared easy politically, but the practical consequences had not been fully considered. The Commission for Gender Equality believed it was being singled out as the problem in the process.
The Commission for Gender Equality had undertaken an extensive review of its strategy. The Strategic Plan had been based on a “catalyst” model, rather than an implementer model, and seemed to presuppose a fair degree of centralisation, relying on strategic partnerships to ensure delivery of programmes. The Commission had determined to take a more proactive and independent stance and would focus on only two themes to ensure that the work done during 2018/19 had impact: Women’s Health and the National Gender Policy Framework.
The fiscal environment did not make it easy for the Commission as there had been a budget reduction. For 2018/2019, a reduction of R 2.1 million had been made by Treasury, resulting in a final allocation of R 80.7 million and that put constraints on the Commission. The CFO cautioned that due to the inadequacy of funding, the CGE would not be able to fill critical positions in the establishment that were essential for the execution of the strategic plan.
The Committee asked the Commission to address the problems in the 2017/18 report. Dealing with complaints had always been a challenge for the Commission. What measures had been put in place to address the issue of complaints in next five years? Members asked about CGE’s plan for moving from a manual to an electronic case system to increase efficiency. Had plans been put in place to improve targets that had not been met in the 2017/18 financial year? Members also asked for clarity on the issues of shelters and women in correctional services. Was the focus in the women-in-procurement programme on government departments or the private sector? What was the focus on in the traditional sector and was the Commission engaging with the Portfolio Committee on COGTA in respect of the Traditional Courts Bill?
With regard to the disability rights, Members asked how the Commission was dealing with the lack of concern for disability by political parties, especially the Opposition parties. How would it make sure that the Opposition parties included people with special needs? Did the Commission have a plan for addressing albinism?
The Chairperson opened the meeting by asking the delegation from the Commission for Gender Equality and the Committee Members to introduce themselves. The Business Executive from the Auditor-General was requested to make the presentation.
Presentation interim review of the APP 2018/19 and Status of Records 2017/18 by AGSA
Ms Corne Myburg, Business Executive: Attorney-General South Africa (AGSA), said that the presentation would only cover the Department of Women in the Presidency as the AGSA had not done a review on the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE). The purpose of the briefing was to provide audit insights into the interim review of the Department’s Annual Performance Plan (APP) in order to add value to the oversight role of the Portfolio Committee and to share risks identified during the 2017-18 Status of Records review that might impact the 2017-18 audit outcome, if not attended to.
The AGSA assessed the process followed by departments to prepare and submit strategic plans and APPs. It also assessed the measurability and relevance of the final draft indicators and targets planned for selected programmes. Findings from the review were communicated to departmental management. The findings did not have an impact on the audit conclusion on usefulness or reliability of the selected programmes for the PFMA 2017/18 year-end audit.
The Department had not submitted the draft APP for 2018/19 on 31 January 2018, as agreed in an engagement letter with the AGSA. The APP was submitted on 19 February 2018 and was viewed as non-compliant by AGSA.
The Department had incurred expenditure of R29 575 000 in the previous year. Management had engaged with National Treasury regarding some of the unauthorised expenditure and how it would be dealt with. However, management still needed to implement a number of internal controls to ensure proper oversight by ensuring that all audit recommendations were implemented, and root causes were dealt with in an adequate manner. The position of the CFO had been vacant for nine months of the current financial year. That might have impacted the effective implementation of controls over daily and monthly processing and reconciling of transactions, compromising the eventual compilation of credible and reliable financial statements.
The most significant findings included the deviation register which had eight deviations. The reasons provided were not justifiable for the majority of the deviations. An investigation had been conducted by the office of the Attorney-General and National Treasury on irregularities within the Supply Chain Management unit and had been finalised by 31 August 2017. Findings around the procurement process were noted and recommendations had been made to the accounting officer for implementation. The debt and disallowance miscellaneous suspense accounts contained transactions older than one year. Management needed to implement a number of internal controls to ensure proper oversight by ensuring that all audit recommendations were implemented, and root causes dealt with in an adequate manner. Specific action had to be taken regarding the matters arising from the Status of Records review. The position of the CFO had been vacant for 9 months for the financial year under review. That might have impacted the effective implementation of controls over daily and monthly processing and reconciling of transactions, compromising the eventual compilation of credible and reliable financial statements.
Ms T Stander (DA) appreciated the clarity of the presentation. The presenter referred to amendments based on findings. The Department had presented a corrected copy to Parliament. The Committee knew that the Department gave false percentages for attainment of targets. Where the Department stated that it had attained 75% of the target, the Committee knew that the Department had done nothing. The amendments to the targets were a concern for the Committee. The Department ran away from the Committee. She asked for clarity on the revisions, amendments, corrections and, the consequences of missed targets by the Department.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) said that the Department did not implement its mandate. She did not know how National Treasury gave the Department money. She added that the indicators for measuring other departments were the same year in and year out, but the Department had not yet come up with the tools to do the monitoring.
She agreed with the lack of leadership and the lack of competency and commitment. Officials were taking advantage of the vacuum. The position of the CFO had been filled by an acting person who did not have the skills to manage finance or corporate affairs for over a year. Several investigations had been done prior to the one in August but there had been no information about the outcome. She asked what AGSA had done in the light of the lack of performance and misplaced indicators in the Department. She asked about the budget comparison between 2018/19 and 2017/18. What was the original amount allocated to Programme Two?
How would the sanitary dignity pilot rollout be implemented? Members had no idea of how the Department would do it. It was not in the indicators. She did not believe that the Department of Women would be able to implement the programme and would rather see it in the APP of the Department of Education. She asked what the AGSA was doing as the Department’s APP had not yet been tabled in Parliament.
The Chairperson said it was the Department’s responsibility to handle the sanitary dignity project and wanted to know who the Department was in partnership with on that matter.
Ms Stander asked if the programmes, the key performance areas (KPAs) and the indicators were relevant to the mandate of the Department. She told the AGSA not to hold back on comments because the only thing that the Department had done was submit a memo to Cabinet. She asked what the AGSA did when the Department lied.
Ms P Bhengu-Kombe (ANC) said that she agreed with the Committee that the Department was not doing its work and that was really difficult as the Department was meant to monitor other departments. Most of its targets were not met. It was not an implementing department but had failed to monitor other departments. The Committee had never been given a report on the monitoring of any department. The former President had instructed the Department to ensure the economic development of women, but it had failed to do that. All the money allocated to the Department was used for dialogues and the outcome of those dialogues was never reported to the Committee. She assured the AGSA that the Committee would ask difficult questions of the Department, but she knew that they would not get answers. The Committee agreed with the findings of the AGSA.
An ANC Committee Member stated that the Department had not yet tabled the APP in Parliament. The Department had cancelled a meeting with the Committee. Members were going to be challenges in holding them accountable as there was new leadership. But what could Members say to the women of the country?
The Chairperson expressed concern about the Department’s conduct and wondered if there was a need for the Department with its current issues.
Ms Myburgh said that there had been in-year changes in the APPs in 2017/18 and it meant targets had been changed. The lack of stability within the Department was the main contributing factor and the lack of agreement on targets and how to achieve them. The frameworks had never been developed and that posed great performance issues. It was difficult to assess the achievements that had been met as the report and source documentation had not been received. AGSA had not done any work on reliability as that was only done once the Annual Report had been received.
The presentation was forward-looking with the current plan for 2018/19. AGSA had received the draft in February 2018. In terms of Treasury regulations, the Department was supposed to have submitted it by the end of January 2018. That was non-compliance.
There were inconsistencies in what the Department said in their plans. On the one hand, the Department said that it needed to implement and on the other hand, it said it had to develop. The Department needed to clarify what its role was in terms of the mandate. Those were the questions that the Committee had to ask the Department. What was the misalignment, and how were they going to solve the problem? How would the APP be achieved? How was the Department monitoring achievement? Was the monitoring of achievement in the performance contract of the DG or another senior official in the Department? Who was being held accountable? How was the Department going to be held accountable? Another challenge was the many gaping holes in the Department’s communications. The Committee needed to hold the Department accountable as the AGSA verified the accuracy of the information given by the entities against the source documentation, but the AGSA was not responsible for monitoring or achievement. AGSA looked at the compliance.
There had not been any formal feedback to AGSA on the previous investigations undertaken. The Department lacked transparency and openness, which made it difficult to monitor. The Department had to share the findings with the Committee or the Committee would be unable to monitor. The Department was seemingly in a position where it was unlikely for them to meet the targets they had set out in the previous year.
The Chairperson said the Committee had been shouting like mad dogs at the Department and it could not go on like that. The integrity of the Portfolio Committee was in tatters and the former Minister should be summonsed to answer to the issues.
Ms D Robinson (DA) said that the matter had gone on too long.
Presentation on the APP from the Commission on Gender Equality
Ms Luluma Nare, Chairperson: CGE, said that the Commission had made a clear submission on the amalgamation discussion. There was a proposal for a single human rights body and the CGE asked for parliamentary communication on the matter. The CGE was against the proposal and had referred the issue to the veterans who had initiated the Commission. There had been no risk assessment on how they would amalgamate and how they would report to Parliament. GCE had heard that Parliament was not happy with the amalgamation. There were financial issues. There was so much that had not been done, but it looked politically easy, especially singling out the CGE as the problem child in the process. There was an amalgamation committee under the presiding officer looking at amalgamation. GCE had been asked if it was in or out. It had said that it was out.
Ms Robinson asked if that committee was official. She said it was wrong that the committee dealing with the amalgamation had not contacted the Portfolio Committee, her party or any of the Members. The Amalgamation Committee should be called to the Portfolio Committee.
The Chairperson asked why men should determine those matters that dealt with women.
Ms Keketso Maema, CEO at CGE, stated that the Strategic Plan had been simplified for publication and, on the surface, it looked like “business as usual”. However, the much more detailed conversations and recommendations that had arisen from the five-year strategic planning sessions undertaken by Commissioners, as well as the findings of the HSRC 20-year review, would lead to some significant differences in the approach to implementation. The Commission was under tremendous budgetary constraints and so there would be more teamwork and collaboration.
The Strategic Plan had been based on a “catalyst” model, rather than an implementer model, and seemed to pre-suppose a fair degree of centralisation. There was a reliance on the establishment of strategic partnerships to ensure delivery of programmes. A much more proactive and independent stance would be required from the Commission. There was an assumption of strong cooperation and coordination across Departments and within the CGE itself. There was also an assumption that support mechanisms within the CGE were in place and effective. Resourcing and reputation, i.e. the image of CGE, had to be kept in mind at all times. There was a fundamental shift in the approach of the CGE as a catalyst organisation, rather than an implementer. It was important because the CGE would focus on only two themes to ensure that the work done during 2018/19 had impact: Women’s Health and the National Gender Policy Framework. The CGE would extend its reach out through liaising and interacting with like-minded organisations, adding social media and other electronic communication technologies to the current radio and print approaches. CGE would proactively engage Parliament to strengthen policy and legislation that advanced gender equality.
The CGE Budget
Mr Moshabi Putu, CFO: CGE, said the presentation indicated the funding of the programmes in the strategic plan. Those were constitutionally regulated. A framework guided how a programme had to be run and funded. The plans needed to be sequenced and needed to show how they integrated into particular programmes. The financial planning was aligned with the broader public sector. The CGE was faced with a number of effects like inflation, VAT increase, annual increases in their budgets and an estimated 6% annual increase in wages.
Due to the general economic downturn and the resultant constrained fiscal space, over the medium term, National Treasury had effected reductions in the budget allocations against the CGE baseline. For the year under planning, 2018/2019, a reduction of R2.1 million had been made, resulting in a final allocation of R80.7 million. The effective nominal increase of R2.5 million was not sufficient to cover the growing spending pressures due to inflation and demands for service delivery betterment. The budget and Annual Plan were, as a result, prioritised to ensure that service delivery occurred effectively whilst the organisation sustained a sound financial position and performance.
The CFO cautioned that due to the inadequacy of funding, the CGE would not be able to fill critical positions in the establishment, essential for the execution of the strategic plan. The mitigation plans in place might not be sustainable in the long run. The Commission could not find scope in the available resources to set aside resources for the replacement of assets. The proposed budget for the current year and outer MTEF period could not provide funding space for Capital Expenditure. Notwithstanding, with cost containment and other mitigations, the Commission remained a going concern, focussing the limited resources, primarily, towards fulfilling its legislative obligations and mandate.
Ms Bhengu-Kombe asked CGE to address the problems in 2017/18 report. Dealing with complaints had always been a challenge for GCE. What measures had been put in place to address the issues in the next five years. She asked about CGE’s plan for moving from a manual to an electronic case system to increase efficiency. Had plans been put in place to improve targets that had not been met in the 2017/18 financial year?
Mr M Dirks (ANC) said that he was happy to take instructions from women, but he was wondering about the progress made since he had been away from the Committee. He was disappointed with the Commission as the five years were almost up and he questioned whether anything had been achieved.
The Chairperson stated that there had been achievements, but they were still working on. Men undermined women. The problems that women were facing were actually men.
Mr Dirks was looking forward to meeting with the unions to present the reports from the Department. He had spoken to a colleague about the challenges in the Committee and she had given him hope.
Ms Robinson asked if the new Minister had been invited or did Ministers automatically attend the Portfolio Committee. The previous Minister had never attended. She asked what was happening on the national shelters front and the dealings with traditional courts with regards to the protection of widows.
The Committee Secretary stated that the Minister of the Department had been invited to attend the following week, but it depended on the tabling of the APP. She noted that, to date, the Department had not tabled the APP. Procedurally the Committee could not engage with her until the APP had been tabled. The budget debate for the Department was set for 17 May 2018 so that had to be finalized. The Committee had also to combine and adopt its report before that date.
Mr Dirks asked if there were any deadlines for Parliament.
The Secretary stated that the deadline had been 30 March 2018.
Mr Dirks enquired what would happen as a result of missing the deadline. Were there no consequences?
The Secretary stated that normally a department sent a letter explaining why there had been a delay.
Members suggested that the Committee focus on CGE and leave the issue of the Department for later.
Ms Tseke asked for clarity on the issues of shelters and women in correctional services. She was not quite sure how the transformation affected the Commission. What was the focus in the women-in-procurement programme? Was the focus on government departments or the private sector? She also asked about the focus on the traditional sector. Had the Commission engaged with the Portfolio Committee on COGTA in respect of the Traditional Courts Bill?
With regard to the disability rights, she asked how CGE was dealing with the lack of concern for disability by political parties, especially the Opposition. The ruling party had always ensured that they included persons with a disability as Members and staff, but the other political parties did not do so. What would the Commission be doing to focus on the issue? Would they develop a framework? How was the CGE monitoring the issue? She asked for timelines on the review of the National Gender Framework and issues of employment equity.
She asked the CFO to give details about the line item in the budget for Public Education and Information. There was an allocation of R1.7m. What did it cover? There was also an item listed as PEI. Could she have clarification on that?
Ms Robinson followed up on the point about the national Shelters Movement. She was pleased as she was personally involved in the Shelters Movement. She suggested that the Movement should be invited to address the whole Committee as she was sure that it would be of interest to everyone in the Committee.
On the Traditional Courts Bill, Ms Robinson was particularly interested in the plight of widows, which troubled her greatly. Widows were often dispossessed of property or the home in which they had been living. She would like more information about it. The Committee should link up with other Committees. For example, COGTA had been very dealing with the Traditional Courts Bill but the Women’s Caucus should also be giving input.
An ANC Member stated that one focus of the CGE was to review employment equity. She was concerned about the lack of equal representation in terms of top management. She wanted CGE to zoom in to that space. Even in government, there was no equality in top management. Which departments would GGE prioritise and how would they do it?
Another ANC Member stated that politicians from the opposition parties needed to address special needs gender equality. What was CGE doing about that? How would it make sure make sure that the Opposition parties included people with special needs? How would the Commission engage with the ruling party to deal with the matter in Parliament?
Ms Robinson stated that representation was not only about colour and gender, but also about disabilities. She had raised the issue many times with her party. The party was on a search, but she wanted the Committee to know that it was her personal mission to ensure full representation in her party.
The Chairperson noted that there had not been a focus on albinism and was concerned about the killing of people with albinism and urged the CGE to look into that.
Ms Robinson added that albinism was another of her personal issues and she had proposed a Bill on Albinism in the early days of democracy. Ms Nomasonto Mazibuke, one of the Gender Equity Commissioners, had approached her, and they tried to have a meeting with the Portfolio Committee but had not been successful. Ms Robinson was working with a group in Johannesburg on albinism. She wanted it placed on record that she would like albinism to be put on the programme of the Committee as there were some people who were ready to come and talk to the Members.
The Chairperson agreed that the Committee would look into it. She asked the CGE to respond to the questions.
Response by CGE
In response to the budget line item for PEI (Public Education and Information), the CFO of CGE said that there was a budget for PEI support as PEI had assumed an administrative coordinating role and the budget had previously been found in the CEO’s budget. The public information and technology budget was for programme activities.
The CEO said they had changed the CGE’s audit strategy. In the previous audit there had been specific findings on the APP. CGE had been able to change them because when AGSA finalized the audit, CGE was already working on the programme for the new year. The previous year, CGE had considered the Auditor-General’s findings as far as the legal work and some of the targets were concerned so the Commission could adapt. That had been done, so the matter had been addressed. As far as the budget constraint and putting in the case management system, it assisted the Commission when there were vacancies in the personnel establishment. For example, the Chairperson had only been appointed on 1 November 2017 and so the Commission was able to accumulate a little money. At the beginning of the financial year, the structure had been expected to answer to those savings, so the Commission highlighted particular projects that it wanted to allocate the savings to, and one of those projects was the case management system.
CGE was trying to increase the number of shelters. It was reviewing the current legislation to ensure that it did help women and not hinder them and so CGE would be engaging with Social Development to see how it was administering the Act. The Commission would also be looking into the shelters themselves to see if there were any specific needs at the shelters and then CGE would be able to formulate a way forward.
CGE had made a number of submission and was elevating the issue of the National Gender Framework and was hoping that the Committee would be supporting the Commission in that regard. In respect of the 50-50 issues. She knew that political parties had policies but there should be a way of enforcing those policies. CGE would be looking into it. CGE had established committees on legal issues to deal with the reviewing of Bills and issues before Parliament and the Traditional Courts Bill and gender-based legal issues would be addressed by the relevant committees.
Ms Lulama Nare added that CGE had a Good Governance and Legal Matters committee and complaints would fall under that committee so that they would be picked up and addressed.
Ms Maema stated that there had been progress in gender inclusivity and employment equity. CGE was using its legal powers and whatever CGE recommended that an institution needed to do, it was done. Even Eskom had done that and now they had many women engineers and was one of the flagship companies in respect of women. The most challenging public sector was the police. There was a glass ceiling. Policewomen or officers were well represented at Warrant Officer level but not many moved upwards from there. That challenge needed more work. The Women’s Portfolio Committee should meet with other Portfolio Committees, such as the Portfolio Committee for Police. CGE presented a report and the mining company, or whatever company it was, came back with their gender policy and then CGE monitored it. Companies could also be given training.
There was slow progress in the political parties on the gender front, with more concern in respect of the Democratic Alliance. CGE made reports to the Committee relating to the AG’s work but the Commission wanted to report more on the gender work that it did because the Commission owed the Committee that much. When CGE had to talk about compliance, it was not able to address some of the substantive issues.
CGE had worked well with the universities but Nelson Mandela University and Mpumalanga University had not appeared before the Commission. Tshwane University of Technology had worked on its gender profile.
She was aware that an Amendment to the Gender Commission had been tabled in the Multi-Party Caucus, but she did not have the details. Apparently, the parties were resisting one of the clauses. So, the Commission did have legislation tabled before Parliament. The Commission had also had a break-through with the gender issues. For example, after the party elections, it was the media that was asking about gender equity. The SABC was invaluable. There was also funding from Swedish embassy that had helped by paying for awareness programmes on the local radio stations.
The Commission had a new strategy and a new operational model. The HR position had been downgraded so the Commission would like to present the changes to the Committee. The Commission had downgraded some positions, but it still did not have enough money to fill all their vacancies, although the approach had freed up funds for projects. CGE had conducted training on gender sensitivity and that was going well despite some setbacks in other entities. Unfortunately, CGE was not specifically funded for training.
CGE was trying to fill positions in the Western Cape and in Limpopo, but it currently had three legal positions vacant and the strategy was dependent on the legal approach. The Commission had to start closing cases and was talking to the CCMA as to how it did things.
The Commission was responsible for the oversight of the National Gender Framework. The initial indications were that the new Minister had an appetite for gender work and hopefully things would turn around as, operationally, there had been problems with the Department. The DG position had been vacant for some time, but she was hoping that things would improve, and that appointment would be made. The Department had said that it would work on the Gender Framework and the gender-based violence but nothing concrete had been produced. People called the CGE to do gender training as organisations could not go to the Department, but CGE did not have a budget for training.
Relations were improving with the Hawks on gender violence. The Commission had also raised its concerns with the Deputy Chief Justice about what was happening in the courts, particularly in respect of the chauvinistic approach in the courts. Judges and magistrates needed to be aware of gender discrimination. The Commission was trying to set up a training programme for the judiciary and magistracy.
Directors-General in Gauteng provincial departments had been instructed by the Premier to include a KPA (key performance area) in their contracts, as had some municipalities. The DA had more women in the wards in municipalities but where there were political structures, there were often problems. The DA women had to be more assertive. In the ANC, relationships were very conflictual but ultimately women were appointed. There was progress, but it was slow. If there was a strong group of women Ministers, they could get things moving.
Ms D Robinson (DA) said that a book had recently been published on shelters in Limpopo and Mpumalanga and the European Union had funded the publication. Funding was the biggest concern with regards to shelters. The Saartjie Baartman shelter in Athlone, Cape Town, was the only shelter that allowed children to stay with their mothers. Other shelters said that they could not afford to keep mothers and children. That was a tragedy because families were being split when they really needed to be together.
She added that the amalgamation of CGE and the human rights body was a serious issue and the Committee Members needed to be fully equipped to take on the fight.
The CEO said that there had already been some engagements in that regard.
The Chairperson thanked everyone for their contributions.
The meeting was adjourned
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