The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) briefed the Select Committee on its 2018/19 annual report, and on the changes and developments that had taken place within the Department since the reorganisation after the May general election. The former Department of Women had taken over the function of Persons with Disabilities from the Department of Social Development (DSD), and the function of Youth Development from the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME).
The Department’s financial appropriation for the year was R230.2 million, and the actual expenditure was R222.4 million, or 96.6% of the total appropriation. It had incurred irregular expenditure amounting to R4 million, and R334 000 in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
Members asked for more information on the Department’s use of consultants; the reasons for the suspension of four officials; the national strategic plan to address gender-based violence (GBV); and the time frame for rolling out the sanitary pad programme. They urged the Department to get closer to the rural communities, and to ensure that its plans were integrated with those of the National Development Plan (NDP).
The presentation was led by Ms Welhemina Tshabalala, Acting Director General (ADG), Ms Annette Griessel, Deputy Director General (DDG), Ms Desiree Legwale, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Ms Nondumiso Ngqulunga, Director of Legal Services, who all presented various sections of the presentation.
The Department was able to achieve 69% of its targets. In May 2019, the President had announced that the function of Persons with Disabilities would be transferred from the Department of Social Development (DSD), and the function of Youth Development would be transferred from the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), to form the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. Subsequent to the announcement, a proclamation amending Schedule 1 of the Public Service Act was published. In addition, a proclamation to transfer administrative powers and functions was entrusted by legislation to certain Members of Cabinet.
Part A of the presentation dealt with the strategic focus of the Department, which explained its organisational design and budget programme structure, the link between the targets and the National Development Plan (NDP) priorities. It also listed its significant achievements.
Part B dealt with the Departmental performance information, highlighting the administration performance of 2018/19 and the challenges, including remedial action. It also covered the social transformation and economic empowerment performance and policy, stakeholder coordination and knowledge performance.
Part C dealt with governance, as part of which the Department had established various committees, including a risk mitigation committee and an audit and risk committee. The presentation also looked at progress with the Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) as a tool of analysis. MPAT looks at strategic management, governance and accountability, human resource management and financial management.
Part D dealt with human resource oversight. In this section, the presentation highlighted various issues such as salary bands, employment and vacancy programmes, turnover rates by occupation, staff departures, representivity in terms of race and gender, suspensions, and the issue of vacant posts.
Part E addressed the annual financial performance for 2018/19. The financial appropriation for the year was R230.2 million, and the actual expenditure as at 31 March 2019 amounted to R222.4 million, or 96,6% of the total appropriation of the Department. The overall appropriation for the Department did not change from the original appropriation during the Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure (AENE) process.
The Department incurred irregular expenditure amounting to R4 million, and R334 000 in fruitless and wasteful expenditure for the financial year.
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC, Eastern Cape) wanted clarity on a few challenges that were raised in the presentation in which they highlighted that the Department did not have adequate resources. The use of consultants and their tenure --when would it end? The expense of using consultants was exorbitant. How many working hours did the consultants spend? The Department should prioritise rural areas in their programmes. The budget was almost 100% spent, but not all the targets had been met. How would they be able to meet their increased targets? Lastly, there were four staff members who had been suspended. What was the reason for their suspension?
Ms D Christians (DA, Northern Cape) asked if the Department could provide more information on the costing of the national strategic plan on gender-based violence (GBV). The national strategic plan had been approved -- when would the Committee be able to see it? What were the timeframes to roll it out? Was the R1.1 billion the President had said was available for the programme still sufficient to roll it out, or would more funds be made available? Regarding the sanitary pad programme that was going to be rolled out to all the provinces, what was the timeframe from distribution to allocation? What were the areas that had been identified? What were the future plans?
The Chairperson referred to the irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, specifically the supply chain management (SCM) process, and asked whether there had been consequences for the officials involved. Was the approval of the deviations justifiable due to poor planning? What improvements had been made to the SCM process? It was interesting that they could not find the reports that had been signed off by the Minister. What was the reason for this? It was important for the committee and society to receive a timeframe on the GBV and femicide policy implementation plan.
The Chairperson said that she had made a visit to the Sarah Baartmaan women’s shelter, and they had wanted to know whether non-governmental organisations (NGOs) would benefit from the funds that the President had allocated for GBV and similar issues. How was the work of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and the Department going to complement each other, considering that the youth were now part of the Department’s mandate?
Ms Ndongeni asked what the timeframe of the current vacancies was, because they were critical vacancies.
Ms Tshabalala said that they had been advised that because of the restructuring of various departments, they had to pause the filling of vacancies to allow the restructuring process to unfold. This was because various departments had merged, so there was various reshuffling of staff who may be in duplicated positions. The restructuring process would end in December.
Regarding the Sarah Baartman shelter, they had noted the report of the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) and agreed to have a joint session with the CGE, and summon various departments such as Social Development -- and any other relevant department -- that had the responsibility for shelter work. Social Development could have the sole responsibility, but other departments should also have an input. The Minister of Public Works had pledged to identify unused buildings and renovate them buildings. It is not just a social cluster issue, but also an economic cluster issue involving the Department of Agriculture as it related to food security, which was also included in the programme of shelter work.
Regarding the shelters, there was a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Department and the South African Police Service (SAPS) on steps to be taken when incidents happen. The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) would also be invited to the joint session, because they were at the municipal level, to assess their role in assisting NPOs with with issues such as municipal rates, water, electricity, etc.
With the sanitary pads programme, the R1.1 billion the President had announced came from an emergency intervention. It was a short term plan for six months and then the National Strategic Plan (NSP) would kick in and be implemented. The cost of the NSP was not available yet because it was being concluded at the end of October. Once it had been concluded it would be subjected to government processes, so that it could be monitored by all the relevant role players. There was no exact time frame because it needed to go through clusters, and Cabinet might not be completely satisfied with it. All relevant stakeholders had to make an input on the NSP.
During the march against GBV, women had given a memorandum to the President in which there was a request for a strategic plan and a structure that would monitor that plan. Those two documents would be tabled simultaneously in Cabinet so that when the plan was approved, the structure which would monitor the implementation of the plan would be approved. In the declaration, they had raised issues that the interim steering committee was monitoring.
Ms Tshabalala highlighted that the government and members of civil society were working together towards a common goal. They were responsible for the outcome of those resolutions and if there were any mishaps, they would need to go back to the drawing board. This would be approved by Cabinet and monitored by the structures.
The Sanitary Dignitary Programme had already been rolled out. While they were working on the pilot phase, Treasury had sought money and disbursed the funds. Provinces had already received their allocations and procurement processes had already been unfolded. There were two different departments involved – either Social Development or Basic Education -- depending on the province. It depended on the decision that the provincial council had taken at the time, but the framework was the same to ensure that whatever structures they imposed nationally were replicated provincially. There was a national task team, and the Department was trying to replicate the task team to provinces so that there was a mechanism to address the various issues.
In the area of economic empowerment, the Department was pressing to have women at the centre of the supply chain process. Gender equality should be at the helm of the process. There was a province that had unintentionally excluded women from a tender by having exclusionary requirements. The women’s role was also to play an advocacy role.
The presentation had referred to the various rural areas that the Department had visited to launch the framework for the sanitary pad programme. The launch had included an educational element for the girls. It was an area that the Department needed to improve on. It had three or four programmes per year, and wanted to request the provinces to target rural areas in their interventions. There had been sessiona in Beijing and New York where women from rural areas had been invited to speak about themselves and their experiences.
The Department had hired an investigator to do an assessment and analysis to determine whether there had been irregular expenditure due to fraud or other processes, and they would receive a report on the findings. Where intervention for remedial action was warranted, particularly consequence management, this would be applied. However, in some instances, there needed to be planning in advance and affording the supply chain management an opportunity. Even though there may be advance planning, there was no director for supply chain management, so that affected them. They had requested the assistance of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) to give them a CFO who was surplus, or allow them to fill the vacancy because it posed a risk to the Department.
Ms Griessel referred to the challenge of rural areas, and said there was a bias towards urban areas in government, and that was why the government had introduced the district model which focused on rural areas. There had been provincial dialogues on GBV, and even during National Woman’s Day events, women had been brought from different rural areas in those provinces to participate in dialogues. So there was an attempt to reach out to rural areas, and they would continue to ensure that women in rural areas had a voice, as they were heavily affected by GBV. That was something the Minister had also been raising.
Ms Legwale responded on the different categories of consultants and how they were paid. They were paid in terms of National Treasury regulations. There were facilitators that had been appointed by the Department to facilitate various dialogues. The Department had taken this route in order to minimise expenditure. She added that the Department verifies the qualification of candidates that they appoint.
Ms Ndongeni commented that there was an inconsistency with amounts of R4 million and R2 467 000 indicated in the report. She asked for clarity.
Ms Legwale explained that the actual expenditure for consultants was reflected in the notes for goods and services on page 136, note 5, of the annual report
Ms Ndongeni said there was still an inconsistency, but advised the CFO to come back to the Committee with clarity on the matter, and send the information through to the secretary.
Ms Legwale answered the question on what the Department was doing to regulate the irregular expenditure. They had conducted a workshop for all senior management service (SMS) members. It had been conducted by National Treasury and was also expanded to officials in the Department. A financial instruction had been developed that would guide officials on the process to be followed for the procurement of goods and services, to prevent future occurrences of irregular expenditure. There had been an improvement in implementation.
Ms Ngqulunga explained the suspension of the four officials pending a disciplinary hearing. They had been put on suspension for contravention of the PFMA and National Treasury regulations. The allegations involved supply chain processes, colluding with service providers and the abuse of the quotation system. All the cases had been concluded and only one had been referred to the State Attorney for review.
Ms Tshabalala supplemented the information on the previous point regarding rural areas, to answer which rural areas they had visited. Makhanda and Piet Retief were the areas where the programme had been launched, and women were transported from their respective areas to witness the launch. The municipalities were also involved in this programme.
The Department was advised that because it was a department that sought to influence government machinery, whenever frameworks were signed off they had to be signed off at the national level and not at DG level, otherwise they would not have a significant effect. Based on this, they had refined their technical descriptive indicators as required.
Ms Ndongeni asked the Department to invite the Committee to view their programmes.
Ms Legwale said the R4 million on page 83 referred to the R4 million in expenditure incurred, as opposed to the irregular expenditure for 2018/19 financial year, and the R2.4 million was for consultants, as published in the annual report.
The Chairperson said that during their Committee oversight week which was held in the Western Cape, they had visited an organisation and had realised the need for the government to be involved in communities. Local government was silent and far from assisting its communities. Local government needed to be more involved when talking about GBV.
The meeting was adjourned.