The Committee was briefed by the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) on its 2018/19 annual report, and heard that it had met 79% of its targets, including those focused on transformation and cultural heritage preservation. However, its performance reflected a marginal decline from the previous year, with inadequate record keeping and corroboration of evidence being the main reasons for not meeting a number of its targets. The Department had taken remedial action to provide a better description of its targets and had committed to implementing better internal record-keeping standards
Although the Department had received a clean audit, the audit outcome had highlighted that it had under-spent its budget by R100 million, and that there was inadequate audit evidence provided to verify that appropriate disciplinary steps had been taken against officials who had incurred irregular expenditure.
Members criticised the Department’s irregular expenditure and under-spending, and expressed concern that its funds were not meeting their intended purposes in creating resources that could benefit the general public. They asked about progress with the feasibility study on the Resistance and Liberation Movements Museum; what the DAC was doing for San and Khoi languages and cultural heritage sites, which were often excluded from cultural preservation endeavours; what was happening with the “Living Legends” project; and what its response was to the plea from artists for government support. They also urged the Department to table the South African Public Library and Information Services Bill to Parliament.
Department of Arts and Culture: Annual Report
Mr Vusumuzi Mkhize, Director General (DG): Department of Arts and Culture (DAC), tendered apologies on behalf of colleagues in his Department who were attending the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
He said the presentation included geographical data that would provide the Committee with a more comprehensive understanding of its activities in the various provinces. The Department’s key targets included transformation and the development, protection and preservation of arts and culture in South Africa. He stressed the importance of preserving heritage sites and indigenous languages on the verge of extinction.
Previously disadvantaged groups were still on the margins of the economy, as they did not own the means of production. The Department intended to mitigate the situation by striving to create a productive and efficient arts and culture economy by promoting the country’s culture and heritage.
In 2018/19, the DAC had achieved 31 of its 39 performance targets, or 79%, which was a marginal decline of 3% from the previous year. The Department had implemented more internal controls, as per recommendations of the internal audit, thus improving the standard operating procedures and meeting targets. It had successfully undertaken the decoding and documenting of unique indigenous knowledge from “Living Human Treasures,” and books had been published as a result.
One of the challenges that had contributed to the decline in performance was inadequate record keeping and beneficiaries’ failure to produce records as evidence of progress, which made it especially difficult for the Department to measure the performance of its projects. The Department aimed to improve performance in the next year by means of streamlining its processes and modernising some of its services by employing technology.
Mr Mkhize said that among the eight targets that the Department had failed to meet, was the completion and implementation of the work study report, which was intended to investigate whether the DAC’s organisational structure was efficient in meeting its targets following governmental reconfiguration of departments. The consultation process on the report had taken longer than expected and the report was not finalised. There were also a number of targets, including a number of flagship and community projects, which had not been implemented due to inadequate corroboration of evidence during the assessment period.
Mr Makoto Matlala, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): DAC, outlined the findings of the annual performance report (APR) audit, and said that there was a concern about the number of cultural diplomacy reports coordinated, as there were no specific performance requirements. The Auditor General (AG) had been unable to obtain sufficient audit evidence for the reported achievement of a number of social cohesion projects implemented. This was owing to a lack of evidence on the appointment of social cohesion advocates, and variations in the number of projects reported compared to the actual number of projects supported financially. There had been 29 modular libraries reported to have been supported, whereas upon auditing it was found that there were 38 modular libraries that were supported.
Mr Matlala said the Department had received R4.3 billion and had spent R4.2 billion, under-spending by R100 million. He provided an explanation of the under-spending, citing inadequate record keeping and corroboration of evidence of certain projects, as well as the fact that some beneficiaries were unable to claim the full amounts allocated to them.
The DAC had taken note of the AG’s findings, and had implemented record keeping of the appointed social cohesion advocates. It had also responded to the AG’s findings that there were no specific performance level requirements regarding the number of cultural diplomacy engagements, by committing to provide a better description of its targets as remedial action. The DAC had taken note of the finding on inadequate record keeping, and it would tighten its internal controls regarding the collection and storage of evidence to support its achievements.
He concluded by outlining some of the AG’s findings with which the DAC did not agree, and provided the Committee with reasons for this.
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked what progress the DAC had made since the conclusion of the 2018/19 financial year in dealing with official responses to incidents of irregular expenditure. She wanted the DAC to provide full details in respect of the R 1.6 million in consequent liabilities incurred. She said the Department did not provide sufficient evidence to support the reported performance in programme 2, and asked the DAC to elaborate on the issue, as well as on the broad outcomes of the draft feasibility study on the Resistance and Liberation Movements Museum. She asked for clarity on whether the DAC had spent over R20 million on goods and services. She urged the DAC to table the South African Public Library and Information Services bill to Parliament, and concluded by asking why it had failed to spend all of its budget.
Mr Mkhize responded that the DAC had been unable to implement the outcomes of the feasibility report because consultations had taken longer than expected, which had caused it to implement the report’s findings in the next fiscal year. National Treasury had advised that the presentation of the Public Library and Information Services bill before Parliament should be put on hold until the financial implications had been explored.
Mr Matlala said the Department had established a committee to composed of labour relations, human resources (HR), legal services and finance to investigate and take action against officials who had been found to be perpetrators of irregular spending. To date, seven officials had been given final written warnings. Regarding the expenditure on goods and services, consultation services had also been included under this title, as well as the provision for litigation. The DAC also had a large amount of infrastructure and capital expenditure.
Much of the under-spending could be attributed to inadequate record keeping, which meant that the Department was often unable to provide evidence for some of its expenditure. The issue of vacant posts was closely related to the incomplete work study report that was intended to address the issue at an organisational structure level.
Ms D Christians (DA, Northern Cape) commented that the DAC had highlighted the preservation of indigenous languages and culture in South Africa, and asked for details of what this meant for San and Khoi languages and cultural heritage sites, which were often excluded from cultural preservation endeavours. She asked for an explanation on the under-expenditure, particularly stressing the issue of vacant posts. She referred to the irregular expenditure and late reports, and asked how the Department was addressing the issue of gender-based violence (GBV).
Mr Mkhize replied that the DAC was collaborating with the Khoisan and Nama Council on gathering information on preserving their language and cultural heritage. It aimed to make the information it collected available to the public to ensure that the knowledge was shared. The DAC had also launched a radio initiative to promote these languages.
Mr M Bara (DA, Gauteng) asked the DG about the R8 million that had been stolen, and asked him to provide some feedback on the “Living Legends” project. There had been an outcry from artists for government support, and asked about the DAC’s response. How did it ensure that the funds allocated to specific projects met their intended purposes and were translated into a resource that could benefit the general public, specifically learners and students? How much had technicalities affected the DAC’s performance reports?
Mr Mkhize replied that there was a separate report on the “Living Legends” project, which he could provide.
The stolen R8 million had been reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS), and the culprit had been arrested and was currently awaiting trial. The transaction had been an electronic transfer, and the bank’s alert mechanisms were alleged to have failed, and although it had been helpful in providing all the records, it had not accepted liability for the loss. The DAC was in the process of recovering the funds.
Mr Charles Mabaso, DAC Chief Director: Cultural Development, responded on the outcry from artists for government support, stating that the DAC had initiated an art bank project in the Free State and Limpopo, where it collects art from local artists and redistributes it to various state buildings. It was gathering more information on the copyright issues that South African musicians face. He also highlighted the inclusion of the San and Khoi heritage sites into the heritage route.
The Chairperson engaged with the DAC regarding discrimination in the Department. She said there was an HR policy in the Department that was discriminating against staff who had joined the Iziko Museum after 1994. Staff members who had been employed by the Museum before 1994 received more benefits than those who were employed after 1994. She felt that most of the Western Cape’s museums had been inherited from the previous regime, and lacked adequate representation of South Africa’s history. There needed to be transformation in the narrative portrayed in museums to ensure that South Africans had access to accurate information on the history of the nation.
Mr Mkhize responded that he would investigate the discrimination matter further. He had noted the issue of museum transformation, and said the DAC would engage on the matter with the chief executive officers (CEOs) of the various stakeholders.
The Chairperson reiterated the Committee’s questions regarding whether the DAC funds were reaching their intended targets, and whether they were spent where they were most needed.
Ms Sizakele Shongwe, Chief Director: Social Cohesion, referred to the Department’s endeavours on preventing gender-based violence, and said that the DAC had conducted sensitisation workshops and had specifically undertaken to target intimate partner violence and femicide. It had introduced after-school programmes to engage young people regarding the music they listen to. It had also undertaken a directorate to engage young men and boys, and had had community talks to educate people on the matter.
The Chairperson commended the DAC for its work on GBV, and stressed the importance of the Iziko Museum matter. She urged the Department to prioritise the interests of the most vulnerable groups in South Africa.
The meeting was adjourned.