Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Budgetary Review Recommendations Report

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

15 October 2019
Chairperson: Ms C Ndaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Available here once adopted: BRRR 2019 

The Committee Content Advisor to Parliament, took the Committee through the draft Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) for consideration of the annual and financial performance of the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, and the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE).

The Department had spent 96.9% of its budget. Vacancies were a major cause of the under-spending. Looking at the overall performance for 2018/19, it had managed only a 68.7% success rate in the attainment of its indicated targets. Of concern was the poor performance of its core programme -- social transformation, economic empowerment and policy – which had lost R7 million through a virement to boost the Department’s administration programme. The Committee was unhappy about the moving of money from one programme to another, and said it had to be better informed before this happened so that it could be monitored.

The CGE had received an unqualified audit opinion from the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA), with a specific focus on internal control deficiencies and expenditure management. The Department had received an unqualified audit opinion, with findings on compliance with legislation/regulations, in particular procurement and contract management, expenditure management, strategic planning and consequence management. The Committee was concerned about the coordination of the different programmes dealing with gender-based violence (GBV), and made recommendations to allow for better coordination. It was also concerned about whether the Department was optimally utilising its budget, and whether it was in fact giving effect to its mandate.

A Member suggested discussion was needed over whether the laws satisfied the needs of black people. Most legislation had been designed against black culture and who they were as black people. Corporal punishment legislation was an example, showing that the law was not aligned with who they were. When teachers were being assaulted by scholars, it seemed it was important to design a law that responded to exactly who they were as a people. The Chairperson added that Civil Marriage Act and the Divorce Act were other examples of laws that were designed to allow the losers to be women. Because the CGE dealt with inequalities, and was involved mostly with people from rural areas where there were chiefs, ndunas and all the traditional cultural issues, the Committee should establish the best way to use the CGE to serve their interests. If the Committee did not know how effective the CGE was in protecting their own black people and their culture and traditions, that would be problematic. There were some laws that the Committee needed to speak about reforming.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said she had recently received a letter from Mr Cedric Frolick, House Chairperson, communicating that the process of filling the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) vacancies should begin. She asked the delegates to work on that matter, as they had more information on the process, so that Members of the Committee were informed about what would happen.

Ms Kashifa Abrahams, Committee Content Advisor, responded that the letter had been noted. Delegates had been in contact with Mr Frolick’s office, and a referral from the Announcements, Tablings and Committees (ATC) was required to move forward. The referral would fulfill the procedural requirements, and the moment it came from the ATC, the process would begin formally.

Draft Budget Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR)

Ms Abrahams took the Committee through the report line by line. She said she would go through it with Members as an opportunity to hear any information or amendments, as the report was still in its draft version. If there were no major amendments the report could be adopted today, or otherwise in a week’s time.

The Department had revised its 2018/19 Annual Performance Plan (APP) in August 2018, which indicated that there were no financial implications. However, two targets had been migrated from Programme 2 to Programme 3. Those two targets referred to the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI’s) incentive schemes and gender responsive budgeting, which were both still in the Department.

Understanding the mandate of the Department, it was important to look at the achievement of the targets. If targets were achieved, Members should know how this took the Department’s mandate forward. This was true also for the strategic focus of the Department.

The report provided an analysis of the financial and programmatic performance of the Department of Women in the Presidency -- now the Department of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities -- and the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE). The analysis took cognisance of what the government’s key priorities were and how these affected women in the country in order to determine what progress had been made, and also identified the gaps and challenges that had to be addressed.

The Department had spent 96.9% of its budget. Vacancies were a major cause of the under-spending. The key cost drivers were the compensation of employees and goods and services.

The Department had three programmes -- Administration; Social transformation and Economic Empowerment and Policy; and Stakeholder Coordination and Knowledge Management. Virements were made between programmes to offset expenditure on compensation of employees, payment for goods and services as well as payments for capital assets and transfers and subsidies. A R7 million virement was made from programme 2 to programme 1, and a R3.3 million virement was made from Programme 3, also to Programme 1. In this way, Programme 1 received an additional R10.3 million through virements from its core programmes.

The Department managed to spend nearly its entire budget, but was unable to efficiently deliver on targets within its programmes that would give effect to its mandate. It maintained that it required adequate funding in order to function optimally, and that the current resource allocation was insufficient.

The Department had received an unqualified audit opinion from the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA), with findings on compliance with legislation/regulations, in particular procurement and contract management, expenditure management, strategic planning and consequence management.

For the 2018/19 period, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) received a budgetary allocation of R80.7 million, which constituted a nominal increase from the previous year. The greatest proportion of the Commission’s budget was allocated to compensation of employees (70.8%), because most of its work was carried out by personnel.

The CGE had 112 funded posts during 2018/19, and a vacancy rate of 16% (18 vacancies), which constituted an increase from the previous year. This had been cause for concern, but commissioners have since been appointed. The AGSA indicated that the CGE had received an unqualified audit opinion with a specific focus on internal control deficiencies and expenditure management.

Looking at the overall performance of the Department for 2018/19, it had managed only a 68.7% success rate in the attainment of its indicated targets – only 22 of the 32 targets were met during the period under review. This had, however, been a steady increase from previous years. Nonetheless, the performance of core delivery programmes had been a concern raised by the Portfolio Committee on numerous occasions. Programme 2 was highlighted as problematic in terms of poor performance. One of the issues highlighted was that the first quarter’s budget and resources had been used to deal with issues from previous financial years.

Committee’s observations

Ms Abrahams said that from page 31 of the draft report, the Department had tried to capture Members’ observations based on engagements with all the stakeholders, and link them to specific recommendations.

She emphasised that the Committee remained particularly concerned with the limited number of tangible deliverables by the Department that had been implemented in their final state that fulfilled its strategic objectives at the end of the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) cycle. It was important that the Department provide evidence in the form of reports on their work. Because this was not a service delivery department, it could not research what was happening in clinics, for example, but needed to report back when it said that it had adopted a particular framework, rather than merely a presentation of its achievements. Only three of the ten significant achievements mentioned in the report had been presented as a formal report. Ultimately, the Committee remained concerned about whether the Department was optimally utilising its budget and whether it was in fact giving effect to its mandate.

Looking at the 2017/18 report, the Committee had picked up that there were still forensic investigations that had not been concluded by 31 March 2018. The recommendation was that the Department brief the Committee on the outcome of those investigations. For the year under review, the Committee also had still not received an update from those old investigations, and now there were new ones. The briefing to the Department had not included this information. This was an example of problems falling into the next financial year.

The Committee noted that the structure of the Department continued to be top-heavy, which resulted in a high number of senior employees being paid high salaries. The Committee commended the CGE for attaining most of its targets for the year under review, given the funding constraints and vacancies.

The report included Committee observations on the Department in respect of policy imperatives, governance and operational issues, administration and core programmes. The report also included the Committee observations on the CGE in respect of governance, finance, human resources and programmes.

The report then closed on the recommendations in respect of the mandate of the Department; the audit action plan; financial performance; internal control risk management; AGSA and the audit and risk committee; human resources; performance related recommendations; legislative and policy reform, the CGE; and the National Treasury.

The Committee would continue to stringently monitor the Department with respect to the implementation of recommendations made by the AGSA and the audit and risk committee (ARC). It urged the Department to take its recommendations seriously and implement these expeditiously.

Ms Abrahams thanked the Members and the support staff. The work was a reflection of what had been captured by the support staff.

Discussion

The Chairperson said one of the goals of the Department’s APP had been to establish the multi-sector council envisioned at the GBV summit. According to the interim steering committee’s declaration, their mandate was to draft the national strategic plan (NSP) framework and establish the multi-sector council. To ensure good linkage and coordination, the Committee should get a briefing from the interim steering committee and the people establishing the multi-sector council.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on the Department’s role, and this question was echoed by Members. She said that the Department was the one that must appoint the multi-sector council on behalf of government, because it would be strange for an interim structure to appoint a council on behalf of government. Government did not delegate its powers to interim structures or non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This must have been an oversight on the Portfolio Committee’s part. The Department needed to clarify this as a concern.

The Chairperson also requested clarity on the role of the Department and the Portfolio Committee in the NSP framework. Ms Abrahams had noted that it would have budgetary implications, which emphasised the importance of the Committee’s involvement. The Chairperson made it clear that the steering committee could not finalise programmes without the Committee’s approval. As Members of Parliament and lawmakers, they should know exactly what was in this plan and make inputs. The Committee would not be able to have ownership of a document written by the steering committee.

Ms Abrahams says that the interim steering committee had been appointed by the President after the GBV summit. She suggested that the Committee request the Department and the interim committee to brief it on the existing structure and engagements, and the National Strategic Plan -- even in its draft form.

The Chairperson asked the delegates to present an analysis on the strategic plan during the coming weeks so that the Committee could make inputs. The standing committee on multi-party women must also make inputs so that women Members of Parliament could participate. They should communicate with the staff members of the multi-party women’s caucus so that they could fit it into their agenda.

Ms A Hlongo (ANC) asked if members of the multi-party women’s caucus or the Committee could become part of the steering committee to resolve this.

The Chairperson responded that it was difficult to answer this, because it had been established by the GBV Summit, and the Committee was not sure about the criteria that were used. It was important for the Portfolio Committee to participate fully, as its role was oversight. There should not be programmes functioning without its involvement.

Ms M Khawula (EFF) commented that a police officer’s march for gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), of which the Committee had not been aware, had taken place the previous day. She went on to make a related comment that an issue like corporal punishment should pass through the Committee before the President made announcements on the matter, to allow for deliberations. Without this process, Members were not able to account to teachers, for example, who had been suffering abuse from students and wanted answers.

Ms T Mgweba (ANC) sid that the interim steering committee consisted of the relevant stakeholders through the GBV Summit taking place before the 6th Parliament. There had been a message from the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) that all stakeholders must submit input to the framework before 15 September. The Committee should nonetheless give the Department the opportunity to present the consolidated draft version so that it could check what the submissions from different stakeholders were, and ultimately have a collective document.

The Chairperson said there had been a complaint from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and another stakeholder which necessitated an extension. Nonetheless, because this was a participatory democracy, and even as Members of Parliament, the Committee should be consulted properly. She asked the Committee to agree on the delegates presenting an analysis to prepare it to hear the Department’s presentation. The Committee had to engage in proper consultations, as this was one of its constitutional values. This would also allow Members to go back to their constituencies and inform them.

Mr S Ngcobo (DA) agreed with the proposal made by the Chairperson. He maintained that the Committee could not allow an interim structure to make such appointments. He asked for the composition of the steering committee to be provided by the delegates.

In response to Ms Khawula’s question for clarity about the CGE Act 39 of 1996, the Chairperson said the Committee’s role was to revise the mandate of the CGE. Some of the questions in this regard were whether it should be changed to become a service delivery department in order to fulfill its mandate.

Ms Khawula asserted that the Committee should be aware of the details surrounding the changes of APPs, especially because they affected the Department’s performance and achievement of targets. The Committee should be aware of who was authorising the change of these plans and what the reasons were, in light of the implications. On the point of the GBV Summit, she commented that it did not help poor people in a material way that affected their quality of life.

The Chairperson commented that Ms Khawula was speaking of the monitoring tool, which the CGE was due to present to the Committee in full. At the moment, the Committee did not have such a monitoring tool and needed to develop its own. She assured the Committee that their concerns were being noted, and the logistics were being organised.

Ms Abrahams asked for some guidance from the Committee. The issue that was consistently raised by the Department was its lack of capacity. The delegates had looked at the organogram for every programme, but they could not indicate to Members that this was where the vacancies were and this was where the capacity constraints were. The organogram received was not complete and the delegates would need to know details of the 111 staff members, such as their involvement per programme, where they were appointed, if it was a funded or unfunded post, and if there was a vacancy or capacity constraint. The vacancy rate was very general and so one could not speak about specific numbers.

The Chairperson referred to page 42 of the draft report, and reminded Members that the Committee had noted as a concern the issue of the information communication technology (ICT) server that had crashed in October 2018. The Committee had been made aware that the Department did not have an IT specialist of its own. There was a need for it to have its own specialist instead of borrowing from other departments. This was especially true, because these problems had started around 2010. The Chairperson proposed that this should be a recommendation made by the Committee.

Looking at the Department’s understanding, the primary cause was vacancies. The two key positions were the IT specialist and the Acting Director General. The delegate asked if there was any specific amendment to what was articulated generally on page 57 of the Report.

According to the findings of the AG and the ARC, it had been found that there was incapacity in the office of the chief financial officer (CFO). The Department had asked the CFO what the problem was, and had been told there were other posts that were vacant and had been vacant for a long time. It was important to make a recommendation that was specific, especially on supply chain management, ICT and the DG, and to include a due date.

Ms Mgweba highlighted the need for an organogram, and asked that this point be placed in the report. She also commented that the Committee had picked up that a lot had been spent on the compensation of employees and goods and services in programme 1, although the core function of the Department was located in programme 2, addressing economic empowerment and social transformation.

The Chairperson commented on the virements. Making virements -- using money for programme 2 in other programmes -- was a concern in terms of budgeting. Though an answer had been given by the DG, the Department had delivered only one target out of five, and this was concerning as in terms of spending, the budget was almost exhausted. There was evidence in the report showing how they had used the money for dialogues and so on. What the Portfolio Committee needed to say was that the Department must stick to the budget allocations unless there was an emergency. Although virements were permissible according to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) there must be an attempt to budget adequately for each programme.

Ms Abrahams noted in the amendments to the report that virements should be brought to the Committee for discussion. The Treasury allows 8% to move from one programme to another, and this was being complied with. However, the Committee should be made aware of deviations and money being moved across programmes, especially from the core functions.

Ms Gweba commented that on page 12 of the report, it was claimed that the Department had enough money/budget. This was responded to and amended in the report.

Ms Khawula said that the report mentioned the sanitary towel deficiencies. Wherever one went in the communities, one found that people were not being given access to sanitary towels. She later pointed out that this was related to targets changing.

The Chairperson said what was important about Ms Khawula’s point was the changing of targets. It was important for the Committee to know who was authorising the change of targets. When targets changed, the budget would also be affected. This had not been mentioned by the AG, so it was important for the Committee to note this.

Ms B Maluluke (ANC) commented that this was an issue of poor planning. She raised a concern on the inefficiency of their planning process.

The Chairperson agreed that this was a matter of concern, and recommended that the Department should stick to its planned targets. She commented that Ms Khawula had mentioned at a previous meeting that the person who had changed the targets was not in line with PFMA or National Treasury guidelines. That was a transgression of the policy, and should be noted in the report.

The delegate clarified that Departments were allowed to make these changes, and they go through the Department and the Minister. The problem was that this repeatedly happened without the Portfolio Committee being informed. The Committee was informed after the fact and just before the end of a financial year, when it could not be corrected.

Chairperson clarified that the recommendation was that the Department should inform the Committee timeously if there were challenges in their APP.

Ms Khawula said there were meetings that happened in the Department and with the Committee, but there was little communication. She suggested that the Minister should spend more time with the Committee so that its function was not reduced to rubber stamping decisions made elsewhere. She said that the Committee was sometimes not given the attention it deserved.

Ms Abrahams amended the report in line with the discussion, and added that in 14.1(b), “the Committee strongly recommends that the Department undertake effective planning to give effect to its mandate that targets identified in its APP are not changed and are adhered to. In the event changes are brought about, the Committee should be informed at quarterly report briefings made to the Committee.”  And in 14.1 (c), “the Committee strongly recommends that the Department utilises its budget optimally to give effect to its mandate within the programme allocations.”

Ms Gweba referred to the issue raised by Ms Khawula on the CGE Act 39 of 1996 and its implications, now that it was an old piece of legislation.

The Chairperson clarified that most of the laws passed after 1996 had been amended by the current government. The Committee should be assessing whether those Chapter 9 institutions were still relevant. The CGE was under-funded. What the Committee should be raising was the concern over the under-funding of the CGE, as well as how best to deal with the issue of advocacy. The CGE needed a budget so that they could do more work. The Committee should have a recommendation that says that the National Treasury should look at how best they could fund the CGE. They needed to revisit the way they were funding the CGE. It should be funded adequately, even if it did not go to the extent of the Public Protector. It was an entity that was able to fight for people’s rights.

Ms Khawula said that there were laws where a discussion was needed over whether they satisfied the needs of black people. Most legislation had been designed against black culture and who they were as black people. Corporal punishment legislation was an example, showing that the law was not aligned with who they were. When teachers were being assaulted by scholars, it seemed it was important to design a law that responded to exactly who they were as a people.

The Chairperson noted the issue stemming from the banning of corporal punishment. The Civil Marriage Act and the Divorce Act were other examples of laws that were designed to allow the losers to be women. The impact on women who were the breadwinners of their family where their husbands were not working, was not ideal. A husband who sits on the couch and does nothing was still owed 50% of a woman’s pension, and this was one of the issues she thought the Committee should talk about and address. These were some of the laws that they needed to speak about reforming in the future, but not today.

The Chairperson responded on the issue of the CGE. Because the Commission dealt with inequalities, and was involved mostly with people from rural areas where there were chiefs, ndunas and all the traditional cultural issues, the Committee should establish the best way to use the CGE to serve their interests. If the Committee did not know how effective the CGE was in protecting their own black people and their culture and traditions, that would be problematic. The Committee should invite the CGE to discuss this. As Members of the Committee, they had different experiences. For example, an issue like ukuthwala (forced marriage) was one the Chairperson was not familiar with, but other Members who were should raise these issues so that the Committee could assist the government in creating laws.

Ms Khawula thanked the Chairperson, and said that it was nice to have a Chairperson like her, who validates a diversity of experiences. Families South Africa (FAMSA) was another organisation that should sit in front of the Committee. The CGE was the organisation where they should be putting their money so that they could be operational and accessible to people. Its offices needed to be given more money as an advocate of important rights.

The Chairperson reminded the Committee that the recommendations would be adopted next week, giving the Committee time to consider the draft.

As an amendment, the Chairperson requested the Department to provide an update on cases, and to stipulate a due date. The report should also be amended in response of the concerns raised by Members regarding the National Council on Gender-Based Violence. This would include allowing the Committee to look at a National Strategic Plan that was comprehensive and showed the coordination of all departments. The issue of rape, for example was a competency of the Justice portfolio. The Committee’s role was to see whether the plan was comprehensive. It could raise the fact that there was a problem in the plan if it did not address the perpetrators. The Committee’s role was oversight of the Department in developing a comprehensive plan.

Ms Abrahams commented that that collaboration was dealt with on page 59, so this would be amended with a specific focus on GBV. On the matter of sanitary dignity packs, there was no framework on how the money should be used. What they had done was to distribute the money to provinces without any guidelines. Now there were guidelines that had been issued to provinces on how they should distribute the money etc. The whole value chain should benefit women, and should not benefit men. This programme had been initiated for young women who must be beneficiaries of the whole value chain, and this included persons with disabilities. The Committee needed to obtain and study the framework. The Department was failing to meet targets regarding the employment of people with disabilities. The whole value chain should benefit women and people with disabilities. The other aspect that did not come out clearly was the economic aspect. How did they do advocacy for the empowerment of women? This was not clear and had actually been raised at the meeting.

Looking at economic development, the Chairperson commented that the Committee should be aware of what was required by the national development plan (NDP) policy, and should check if these requirements and objectives were being met.

Ms Khawula pointed out that on page 8, people with disabilities and youth were not mentioned in the strategic priorities of the Department.

Ms Abrahams reminded the Committee that this draft had been written before the change to include people with disabilities and youth. This point may be captured in 14.3 by adding “addressing this matter given the expanded mandate,” to clearly include youth and people with disabilities.

The Chairperson confirmed that the Committee had covered the mandate and made several recommendations, and moved to adopt the minutes.

Adoption of Minutes

Ms Masondo moved the adoption of the minutes of September 3, with minor corrections. Ms Khawula seconded the motion. The minutes were adopted.

Ms Hlongo moved the adoption of the minutes of 10 September. Mr Ngcobo seconded the motion with minor corrections, and the minutes were adopted.

Ms Mgweba moves for adoption of the minutes of 17 September, with amendments. Mr Ngcobo seconded the motion. The minutes were adopted with minor corrections.

The Chairperson commented that there had been an article about abuse at Bishops High School in Rondebosch, where a school teacher was alleged to be abusing school boys. After the abuse had been disclosed, the teacher had resigned with immediate effect. After that, more boys had spoken out about their own experiences. She said the Committee should issue a statement on that issue.

The meeting was adjourned.

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