CGE Special Adjustments Budget; Committee Report on DWYPD

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

15 July 2020
Chairperson: Ms C Ndaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, 15 July 2020
Audio: Commission for Gender Equality 2020/21 Special Adjustments Budget

Tabled Committee Reports

The Committee received a briefing from the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) on its Special Adjustments Budget and revised Annual Performance Plan for 2020/21. The Committee was happy that none of the targets tabled in its original APP would be changed. However, CGE did have to make adjustments in its budget to close the gap on the R10 million budget reduction. The CGE gave an update for the CEO appointment.

During the discussion, the Committee uniformly agreed that the R10 million budget cut for the Commission was uncalled for given the important mandate that it carries out to promote and protect women’s interests. Members enquired about an alternative plan for CGE should its employees be infected with COVID-19, the increasing trend of gender-based violence and domestic violence since the beginning of the lockdown, the plan for the mentoring programme for boys and men under the lockdown, women’s access to health facilities during the pandemic and women’s representation in the private sector. They asked about cannabis farming for  women. Members requested the findings on gender-based violence, sexual health and reproductive rights and personal protection equipment provision during lockdown be shared with the Committee. Members emphasised the importance of CGE attending to the needs of marginalised women who are not accessible via digital means.

Members asked about the appointment of a personal assistant for the Commissioner living with a disability, the unchanged budgetary items such as local travelling in the adjustments budget, remuneration of Commissioners and part-time Commissioners and police stations that do not display GBV messaging.

Meeting report

On behalf of the Committee, the Chairperson sent condolences to the Mandela Family for the passing of Ms Zindzi Mandela as well as to the many comrades who had passed away over the weekend. She asked Members to be aware of the seriousness of this pandemic. She recommended Members who had attended the 30 June meeting do a COVID test as many members had started getting sick after that meeting.

The Chairperson noted Ms M Hlengwa (IFP) had submitted an apology for not attending this meeting due to the lack of electricity. She warned that the electricity might be unstable for some members during the meeting.

Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) Revised Annual Performance Plan 2020/21
Ms Tamara Mathebula, CGE Chairperson, commented on the challenge of load shedding which impacts the meeting. She was not feeling well as she was still on sick leave and thus requested the Chief Executive Officer to make the presentation on her behalf.

Ms Keketso Maema, CGE CEO, highlighted the negative impact that budget reduction had on the Commission’s programmes. She commented that the reduction is deepening the pre-existing gender inequality multiplying its negative impact on women and children.

She believed that a range of issues such as health, gender-based violence, etc. will be negatively affected by COVID-19. CGE plans to have webinar sessions with its Commissioners to discuss those to develop a holistic approach to address these issues.

The CEO informed members that the budget reduction would not affect the tabled Annual Performance Plan. She highlighted the intersectionality of gender issues as there are often other matters that are related to gender. For instance, gender-based violence and inequality between men and women are exacerbated by COVID-19 which shows one aspect of that intersectionality. Another example would be the conflicting statistics on domestic violence since the lockdown. There had been a number of narratives which show that domestic violence is on the rise since lockdown had started. The Commission is obliged to review these statistics to verify validity of the conflicting statistics. This process had not been planned but it is an important mandate of the Commission. She anticipates that there would be more unexpected activities which will be add to the Commission’s task list because of COVID-19 and gender intersectionality. There is also the discrimination experienced by vulnerable groups such as women.She was of the view that women’s access to reproductive rights and services is affected by this pandemic. Also, the legal aid service in CGE has some work to do around this. All of these are the gender issues that COVID-19 has uncovered which require the Commission’s attention.

The CEO highlighted that the budget reduction impacts on CGE’s ability and sustainability to address gender. Although Commissioners had wanted to do work around alcohol, working with men to address gender-based violence, boys’ circumcision, as well as COVID’s impact on these, the budget reduction certainly constrained CGE’s capacity in carrying out this work. A study on circumcision had been included in 2020/21, so luckily that work would be carried out. The Commission is now looking to add a few indicators to illuminate specificity of COVID-19 on the boys’ circumcision programme.

The CEO said that as the Commission is part of the society, its employees are not immune from this pandemic. Its employees have contracted COVID-19 and offices had to be shut down. CGE will need budget in ensuring offices are fumigated and infected employees are in isolation every now and again. She assured the Committee that the Commission will continue to carry out its mandate and deal with issues that pop up. However, in the next few months isolation and quarantine of employees will happen.

The CEO said that CGE will not change the indicators included in its tabled Annual Performance Plan. However, it does anticipate that the Commission may have to take on more work where the budget does not stretch to lead the country on women’s issues. The gender mainstreaming programmes as well as some other programmes will be affected due to social distancing.

The mode of stakeholder engagements will be affected. CGE always prefers communication on the ground as a primary mode of communication because many community-based organisations do not have funding to buy data and internet access. CGE is now considering using telephonic communication. It is in negotiation with National Treasury on the budget. For stakeholders who do have internet, virtual meetings will be held.

Advocacy and legal clinics will also be affected. CGE usually goes to communities to help them with legal advice. Due to COVID-19, it now has to rely on community radio stations to communicate their message and provide assistance. CGE has procured some community radio station coverage through the Government Communication and Information System as shown in the Annual Performance Plan. CGE has also engaged with SABC Education. Since SABC has financial challenges, CGE has to buy time slots from SABC. There is also SABC radio stations which the Commission plans to use. The CEO assured the Committee that the CGE mandate can be carried out without many hiccups.

Ms N Sharif (DA) gave her apology for being late due to load shedding which made internet access unstable. She commended Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) for its managing to maintain all targets included in the original Annual Performance Plan (APP) despite the R10 million budget reduction. She thought that the R10 million reduction for CGE is a big problem because it does a lot of work with women. Now by reducing its budget, it makes people feel like the government is taking women’s rights away. It significantly reduced CGE’s capacity to carry out its programmes such as on GBV and helping women get away from abusive households.

Ms Sharif sought clarity on CGE’s research progress on women’s participation in agricultural cannabis. In her view, it would bring more women into self-empowerment and economic independence.

Chairperson Ndaba said that initially there had been R25 million allocated in the Department which the Committee wanted to give to the Commission on Gender Equality. However, after the special adjustments budget, the Department realised that there would be a problem. She agreed with Ms Sharif that the reduced budget was a concern. She was pleased to know that none of CGE targets had been changed. She understood the difficulty that CGE would face given the reduced budget and guaranteed that the Committee would not be too harsh on CGE in areas which they could not reach.

The Chairperson commented on agricultural cannabis. The CEO of the National Youth Development Agency had spoken to her about it and cannabis is a project which NYDA will embark on for young people.

Ms T Masondo (ANC) said that the findings of CGE investigations and research on GBV, sexual health and reproductive rights and personal protection equipment provision during lockdown should be shared with Committee. She asked if CGE has a mechanism in place for when staff members contract Covid-19.

She asked if CGE has observed an increasing trend in GBV since the lockdown and if there is, are there interventions planned by CGE?

Mr S Ngcobo (DA) commended CGE and agreed that the R10 million reduction in its budget was unacceptable given that CGE is not a well-funded institution.

Mr Ngcobo asked about the progress of the Commission’s programme on mentoring young boys and men to address GBV. Under the COVID-19 restrictions and health protocols, he was aware that it would be impossible to hold gatherings to conduct this programme. He asked if CGE had an alternative plan in place to continue with this project.

Ms F Masiko (ANC) expressed her utmost disappointment in the Commission’s budget cut. In light of the President‘s announcing GBV as a pandemic, she believed that there needs to be a hands-on approach on gender which means that financial resources must be in place. She described the budget reduction as exacerbating the challenges which affected women in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic. Women are affected by both COVID and gender inequality as a result of the budget cut. For instance, sexual reproductive health of women is probably being undermined as South Africa’s clinics and hospitals are swamped with COVID patients. She urged Members to see that women’s needs are adequately attended to.
As CGE still maintained all its targets, she commended the Commission.

Ms Masiko highlighted the inequality of shifting the communication medium from physical contact to virtual platform. She asked the Commission to be cognizant of the lack of internet access for rural women. This paradigm shift affected marginalised women the most whilst they should also be having the full services that CGE offers. She suggested CGE look into alternative contact methods. She asked CGE to consider checking rural women’s participation when conducting online communications such as using webinars.

The Chairperson asked about women’s participation and representation in the private sector. CGE’s focus in the past has focused on women’s representation in the public sector. Women’s representation in the private sector has remained status quo. She wanted CGE to provide its opinion on this.

CGE Response
The CGE Chairperson replied that CGE is researching and exploring the concept of the  agricultural cannabis. CGE has noted that some work has been done by NYDA on cannabis farming. It would be great for the Commission to work collaboratively with NYDA on cannabis farming. She will be able to provide a better report once that engagement has taken place.

Ms Mathebula affirmed that CGE inevitably was affected by COVID-19. CGE has received reports of one or two workers in two provinces having contracted the virus. She assured Members that COVID-19 has not stopped CGE from its work. There is infrastructure in place to ensure that its workers are working remotely if possible. If employees have to be in office, health protocols are in place and employee health conditions are closely monitored. The offices would never close for more than 48 hours during decontamination.

Ms Mathebula explained that as CGE is a human resource-oriented organisation, much of the CGE budget goes to compensation of employees. Given the budget reduction, CGE really has to make sacrifices and explored what needs to be done to carry out the Commission’s mandate without incurring more budget. Operationally, if an employee is down due to COVID-19, there will always be someone else in CGE to take over that duty.

Ms Mathebula explained the Commission’s concept of working with men and boys as one way of reducing GBV. Its work is carried out in two phases. The first phase is engaging CGE male employees in virtual engagement. The second phase is dispatching male employees to communicate messages to those employees in other provinces to deal with this particular work. CGE had held a webinar with the COSATU commissioner as it believed that by approaching trade unions, it would send the message more efficiently across the board.

Ms Mathebula agreed with Ms Masiko about the ramifications of virtual meetings because CGE would not want to mislead people and create the impression that it only does work for those that have internet access. As a solution, CGE really tries to use other modes of communication such community radio stations and telephones to send the Commission's messages to a broader population.  

Ms Mathebula agreed about highlighting women’s empowerment and representation in the private sector. She assured the Committee that CGE does engage with the private sector to talk about transformation. The Commission has an existing MoU with the Employment Equity Commission. The purpose of the MoU is to formalise the transformation agenda to make a meaningful impact on gender equality.

The Committee Chairperson responded that CGE may have not done much work with the private sector to drive transformation. She believed that it is the one sector that CGE needs to look at. She encouraged CGE not be afraid of challenging big businesses because it is CGE’s responsibility and mandate to deal with the issue. The Commission on Gender Equality has the power to summon any company or organisation to account to it just like Parliament does. She noted the importance to monitor transformation in both public and private sectors.

The Chairperson was also not convinced that CGE has taken all precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. She urged CGE to work on that and warned of the catastrophic effect if precautionary measures are not in place. She reminded CGE that Committee members get their information from their constituents, so there is no need for CGE to conceal facts or to think Members are not in possession of facts.

Ms Octavia Ntuli-Tloubatla, CGE Commissioner, said she understood CGE’s mandate. Nevertheless there is a need for coherent legislation on gender-related issues. Many organisations and companies simply will not respond to CGE’s request as those requests are not legally binding. There was the Bill tabled in 2013 that dealt with national gender policy. The last time the Bill was attended to was in 2014 but it was not revived. When addressing gender, she emphasised the important role of a clear legislative framework. CGE currently relies a lot on the Labour Relations Act and the Public Service Act and suchlike so there is really a limitation to what CGE can do in the private sector without a clear legislative framework. She used the example of GBV to illustrate the lack of a clear legislative framework to specifically address that. She had never seen violence perpetrators staying at home whilst the victims of violence have to shelter elsewhere in first world countries. The roles should be reversed for violence perpetrators and victims if there were a clear framework addressing GBV. Without a national policy, progress on gender will not be significant.

Chairperson Ndaba asked the Commissioner to refurbish the Bill she had referred to. She encouraged the Commissioner to present this when the Commissioner is ready to brief the Committee.

Commissioner Ntuli-Tloubatla said that she did have a detailed report on the Bill and would email the development of that Bill to the Committee.

Chairperson Ndaba agreed about the specificity of gender-related issues and that they cannot be conflated with other matters. She also emphasised the importance of gender mainstreaming and gender responsive budgets.

Mr Mbuyiselo Botha, CGE Commissioner, elaborated on the Commission’s Boy Child project. He explained that the CGE Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and CEO had met with the Norwegian Embassy to discuss how to work with boys and men to reduce GBV. Scandinavian countries have abundant expertise in working with men and boys. A report was produced after the meeting. At this stage, CGE is conducting internal training programmes for CGE staff members both male and female so that when the term ends, these programmes will become institutional programmes. CGE has also engaged with traditional leaders on webinar to use those leaders’ leverage in their communities to reduce GBV. Last week a discussion was held with heads of the North West traditional leadership. In addition, CGE has held webinars with church leaders. All of these were done to involve more key stakeholder participation to create a concerted effort in stopping gender based violence.

Commissioner Botha informed the Committee of the Commission’s community radio stations which intend to cover about a million people who do not have access to data. It also could help to reach the boy child in a language that is accessible. CGE dedicates to ensure that all nine provinces will have educational officers on the boy-child project.

CGE Special Adjustments Budget 2020/21
Mr Moshabi Putu, CGE CFO, highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on the Commission’s operational plan and the difficulties that CGE would face under the reduced budget. However, CGE will maintain its original Annual Performance Plan and all of its targets as originally tabled. CGE’s plan going forward needs to be planned together with the reduced budget. However, CGE is committed to carrying out all its mandates against the odds. He highlighted the intersectionality when examining gender and socio-economic impact. Gender inequality would be exacerbated under COVID-19. This would make the demand for the Commission’s service greater than before and thus more resources will be needed.

In response to the budget reduction, CGE has devised strategies to carry out its mandates with a smaller budget. The readjustment of budget had to look at scope and space to find funding to close the funding gap. The conclusion is that with prohibitions on travelling and social distancing, CGE does not anticipate that there would be much travelling. Hence, the budget allocated for travelling expenses will be reprioritised to absorb the budget reduction. Some funded posts which would have been advertised would not be filled. This could absorb the budget reduction.

The Chairperson interjected that she did not agree with CGE taking money from vacant posts to absorb the impact of budget reduction. Since there are no trips and no big events, she did not think that there would still be need for any budget assigned to these items at all. She questioned this decision to freeze posts as creating more problems for society given the high unemployment rate among the youth population.

The CFO agreed with the Chairperson. However, he reminded the Chairperson that budget reduction left CGE very little space to find the funding to close the gap. CGE has exhausted all means to cushion the budget reduction impact. There are only the funded vacancies CGE could use to cushion the negative reduction. However, he assured the Committee that the CGE has never wavered in its stance to reduce unemployment and promote services to youth and women.

The Chairperson commented that sacrifice must not come at the expense of women.

The CFO said that CGE has done a risk impact assessment and has identified key risk areas in the delivery of services and it has planned corresponding strategies to deal with risks. The risks were widespread effect of COVID-19 on staff, discontinuous change, displacement of current service delivery channels as well as effective management of the institution, business interruption, sustainability risk, and weakened internal controls.

In conclusion, the CFO said that the Commission has budgeted up to the last cent. Hence, it may not have the capacity to address emergencies. Pressing issues such as GBV may require additional funding.

CGE CEO Appointment and other concerns
Ms Tamara Mathebula, CGE Chairperson, briefed the Committee on progress in the appointment of the Commission’s Chief Executive Officer. The advert for the appointment of CEO went out in March. Through a CGE supply chain management process, a recruitment agency was appointed to assist with the recruitment. The recruitment process ended in June 2020 and 147 respondents had replied to the advert. The shortlisting has been done and interviews would be taking place on 23/24 July 2020. Thereafter, it will take about a week and half to appoint the Commission’s CEO.

Ms Mathebula said that CGE is looking for an internal candidate to act as the Commission’s interim CEO. The person is being selected among CGE senior management. Given the unstable operating environment, CGE believed that to bring a new person into CGE as its interim CEO would not be advisable.

Dr Nthabiseng Moleko, CGE Deputy Chairperson, said that since there are a number of CGE reports, she sought clarity on which report the Committee would like more details.

Chairperson Ndaba commented that the Committee wanted to see CGE publish more articles. All published articles have very informative headlines. The Committee also wanted to know more information on the report on the part-time Commissioners’ remuneration.

Mr Sedico Rakolote, CGE Senior Manager: Human Resources, explained that there was resolution from the plenary. It was decided that part-time Commissioners would be paid for 100 hours during the period of lockdown.

Chairperson Ndaba noted that there was only one full-time Commissioner who is working during lockdown.

Ms Mathebula explained that declaration per hour for Commissioners is done in accordance with the Commission’s handbook every year and was also reviewed at quarterly meetings. The declaration is submitted to the Office of the CGE Chairperson. In the past financial year, there is only one declaration of a full-time Commissioner who declared that the Commissioner is a full-time Commissioner being remunerated by the University of Stellenbosch from 2017. The Office of the Chairperson gives approval for this kind of declaration.

Chairperson Ndaba asked for more clarity in the report on CGE Deputy Chairperson Moleko who was  a full-time Commissioner [also working part-time elsewhere].

Ms Mathebula explained that the investigation on Commissioner Moleko was not an investigation but an attempt to have closure to complete the report. CGE so far has managed to close the matter. A report is being developed on the matter.

Mr Ngcobo asked about the appointment of a personal assistant for the Commissioner living with a disability.

The CGE Chairperson replied that it was included in the report which would be finalised by the following week. The CFO had also noted that the reduction of funded posts would not affect the appointment of the personal assistant.

The CGE Deputy Chairperson explained that the matter of the personal assistant had been deliberated at a plenary meeting. The Commission had apologised to Commissioner for failing to attend to the Commissioner’s needs. It resolved to do a needs assessment for all commissioners thereafter and has taken a proactive approach to ensure that the labour provided and the needs of Commissioners do not have mismatch. However, the process was delayed due to a recent bereavement at CGE. She absolutely agreed that this matter must be resolved and assured the Committee that it is being facilitated through the Office of the Chairperson.

Chairperson Ndaba said that CGE needed to give a timeline for when this process would be completed.

The CGE Deputy Chairperson replied that she could not give a date but as the CGE Chairperson and CEO to provide more details on the date.

Ms Mathebula replied that it would be an error to provide a date now as CGE is revising the process. It will not be able to provide an exact date until the engagement between the Commissioner and CGE takes place.

Chairperson Ndaba asked Members to provide CGE with a timeframe.

Mr Ngcobo suggested a two-week time period be given to CGE for it to complete the process. Ms Masiko, Ms Masondo and Ms Maluleke endorsed the suggestion.

The Chairperson told CGE that a two-week period was given to get clarity on the matter.

Ms Masondo expressed confusion at the key cost drivers in the adjustments budget. Those included local travel R4.6 million, auditor remuneration R2.8 million, office cleaning and maintenance R2.5 million and report writing and printing R2.5 million. She asked CGE why the budget looks as if staff are still working in office since most employees are working from home now.

Ms Masiko sought clarity on the remuneration of commissioners, part-time in particular. CGE had no remuneration policy for situations like COVID-19. She believed that a special resolution needs to be made to avoid confusion and to provide clarity in future.

She asked about Resolution 7 in the report which stated that part-time commissioners need to develop a general guideline on their remuneration. She asked why it should be the part-time commissioners’ responsibility to develop the guideline. In her view, it should be CGE's responsibility that leads the development of the guideline. The role of the part-time Commissioners should be consultative.

Ms A Hlongo (ANC) informed CGE that some police stations are shut down due to COVID-19 infection. At those police stations, there is usually a sign directing citizens to a nearby mobile police station to certify documents. The signs do not make reference to GBV. She believed this made it more difficult for women to report GBV cases and asked if CGE could find a way to address the matter.

Chairperson Ndaba said that discrimination against part time workers exists and wanted to know the difference between full time and part time commissioners. She was aware that some part-time commissioners are helping people and working even during lockdown and perhaps even work longer than their contractual hours. Thus, she did not think it wise to make the distinction between part-time and full-time commissioners. She believed that there is a need to integrate part-time commissioners.

The Deputy Chairperson commented on the two-week time period. Based on what she had assessed on what needs to be done, the procedure requires the position to be advertised according to the Public Finance Management Act, shortlisting by the Human Resource unit, then interviews as well as the need for reference checking and also the chosen candidate needs to give notice where they are working. Therefore, Dr Moleko requested a two-month time period instead of the Committee’s proposal for two weeks. In the interim CGE guaranteed it would provide all necessary assistance for Commissioners who need it.

The Deputy Chair explained that CGE assesses its employees on competency, skills as well as value add. The distinction between part-time Commissioners and full-time Commissioners is not about discrimination but rather about the different contractual obligations. CGE is currently working on a guideline to improve force majeure circumstances under which COVID-19 would have fallen so that part-time Commissioner's job dignity would be protected.

Mr Botha commented that in many cases part-time workers actually work extra as he was once a part-time commissioner. He questioned the rationale between part-time and full-time and asked everyone to re-thinking this problematic distinction.

The Committee Chairperson suggested Mr Botha do more research on how other commissions such as the South African Human Rights Commission deals with its part-time Commissioners. She would welcome Mr Botha to return to the Committee to do a briefing on the matter once he is ready. She said that the two-week period should remain because the issue at hand was something that CGE should have resolved last year.

The meeting was adjourned.


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