The Committee convened on a virtual platform to receive presentations from the different provincial departments of social development on their Sanitary Dignity Programme Implementation.
Northern Cape first outlined its programme goals as well as the process of coordinating the programme on the ground, including the functions of all the involved stakeholders and partners.
The Department indicated that it is in the process of concluding a three-year contract through the tender process. The cost per unit (one sanitary pad) was R0.96, and a pack of eight costed R7.68; a total of 500 000 single-use sanitary pads were procured. Currently, 31 718 girls have received sanitary pads through the programme. The project faced some delays due to procurement challenges. One of the key factors that affected the implementation of the programme is the rural nature of the Northern Cape, which increases travel costs, as towns and settlements are widely distributed.
Members welcomed the Northern Cape presentation. They asked for more details on the delay in implementation. What was the delay and how was it resolved? How many sanitary packs did each girl receive? They also asked for more clarity on the 67 000 learners who are yet to receive sanitary products – whether the procurement process for these learners has already begun or whether it is already included in the current drive.
Members referred to the tender process and asked how the Department intended to include co-operatives, as the Committee intends for the programme to benefit women and persons with disabilities. They asked whether the Department could present a plan on how they intend to include small businesses and benefit the poor and prevent big business monopoly in the tender.
Western Cape presented that the objective of its programme is to provide female learners with sanitary products in the province. It aims to reach 221 schools and 90 000 female learners and has currently accommodated about 94 000 learners. The province’s programme accommodates both urban and rural schools.
In 2020, the Western Cape Department of Social Development faced coordination and implementation challenges. In the 2019/2020 financial year, the Department secured a total of 1 083 000 packets of pads. The Stay-free brand was used, whereby one packet consisted of ten pads. The cost price per product is R 9.50 per product. The bidding for the 2021 financial year has already begun.
Members asked for details on the frequency of the distributions, asking how many sanitary products were distributed to the girls every month and how this is done. They further asked how persons of disabilities have benefitted from the value chain of the programme. Are there any plans of including young women in the production and manufacturing of sanitary products?
Gauteng stated that its Department aims to reach 950 schools in the 2020/2021 financial year, but the Department has currently only managed to reach 375 725 learners across 482 schools throughout the province. The Department has also initiated a household profiling plan to further aid in identifying vulnerable learners who may have been excluded from the initial learner identification phase.
The province indicated that during the 2019/2020 financial year the Gauteng DSD had a budget of approximately R 145 million and only spent R 68 million. He explained that there were delays in the procurement process, which affected the expenditure. In the current financial year, the Department has spent R 22 million of the total budget of R 78 million.
Members commended Gauteng for being transparent in disclosing what products were used. They felt that it is unfair that learners in some provinces are benefitting more from the programme than in other provinces. How does the national Department aim to ensure that there is uniformity in this regard?
Members also asked whether there was any manufacturing of sanitary products in the province at the moment. They asked whether it was possible to increase the number of cooperatives involved in the manufacturing process instead of partnering with private companies.
Limpopo said that its budget for the current financial year is R32.749 million, which the Department is supposed to be using. An order will be released and service providers will hit the ground running to make sure that they deliver the sanitary pads. However, the Department pointed out that in the province there are approx. half a million girl learners between Grades four and 12. The Department will not have enough funding to accommodate all of them. Disposal facilities are also still a challenge for the Limpopo government, but the Department believes that in six months’ time it will be able to share the experiences that it has come across
Members enquired about the R32.7 million that has been allocated for the 2020/21 financial year. What is the current spending in terms of how the budget currently looks?
In terms of target setting, they reckoned that it is important to note that the province did not meet its target set for the 2019/20 financial year. If targets could not be met in the 2019/20 financial year, where the target was lower, how would they be met in the 2020/21 financial year where there has been a 400 000 learner increase in the province?
Eastern Cape outlined its distribution strategy for its sanitary programme in schools. There will be one box per learner and that box will contain 12 packs and in each pack there will be 16 pads providing each girl learner with 192 pads over a period of 12 months. The service providers are procuring and delivering to the schools. The total number of schools is 850, giving a total of 54 577 learners, including special schools.
In terms of spending the 2019/20 financial year budget that was allocated for the sanitary dignity campaign, Members pointed out that it was not used specifically because the matter was halted by service providers. She requested that the province takes the Committee in confidence and tell it why the service providers were up in arms and halted the process.
Mpumalanga said that all provinces were allocated R157 million by National Treasury and of that amount, the province received R15.984 million.
Members congratulated the Mpumalanga province for the fact that it has been rolling out the programme since the 2018/19 financial year. Out of all the provinces it is the only one that has gone that far back in terms of years. Members pointed out that in the 2019/20 financial year, the target was 176 178 learners and in the 2020/21 financial year it was 180 900 learners. There is a very little increase in the target; they asked that the Department explain why the target is so little.
Members noted that the current costing target is R19.3 million. Given that the financial year is almost over, they asked to date how many girls have been reached and what has the cost of procurement been as well as the operational costs. Out of the R18 million allocated, there was an amount of R10.5 million that was reprioritised. Where did that money go and what was it reprioritised for? What was so important that sanitary pads had to take a back seat?
The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting, welcoming Members, Committee support staff and guests. She shared her experience with COVID-19, expressing her condolences to those who have lost loved ones to the virus. She also expressed her condolences to the families of Members of Parliament who have succumbed to the virus. The Chairperson stated that she is immensely grateful that none of the other Members of the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disability have contracted the virus.
The Chairperson urged Members to heed to COVID-19 safety precautions, stressing that each person reacts to the virus differently and it is impossible to know how damaging the virus will be once contracted.
The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary whether she had received any apologies.
The Committee Secretary Informed Members that she received an absenteeism apology from the Eastern Cape MEC, who was attending a Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) hearing in her province. Both the Minister and Deputy Minister sent their apologies, as they were presently attending Cabinet Committee meetings. The Free State MEC also expressed apologies, as he was directed to attend to another matter by the Premiership. The Committee Secretary stated that she also received absentee apologies from Ms C Phiri (ANC).
The Chairperson asked whether there are delegates present from the Eastern Cape and Free State provinces who will provide a presentation for their respective provinces.
The Committee Secretary confirmed that there are delegates present from those provinces.
Northern Cape Sanitary Dignity Programme
Mr Justice Bekebeke (Provincial Director-General) led the Northern Cape delegation, as the Premier and MEC were attending a COVID-related funeral. Mr Bekebeke thanked the Chairperson for her opening remarks and agreed that it is important to adhere to the COVID-19 safety precautions. He expressed relief at the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Mr Bekebeke introduced the province’s Deputy Director-General of Education, highlighting that the Department of Education was leading the Northern Cape’s Sanitary Dignity programme with the support of the office of the premier.
Ms G Sibiya, Chief Director: Curriculum Management and Delivery, Northern Cape Department of Education, commenced with the Northern Cape’s presentation on the Sanitary Dignity programme.
Ms Sibiya highlighted that the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities has an implantation approach for the Sanitary Dignity programme. Ms Sibiya explained that the Department aims to ensure that indigent women and girls can manage menstruation in a knowledgeable, safe and dignified manner free of charge. She stressed that only certified government sanctioned products will be provided to women and girls free of charge. Ms Sibiya explained that the SDIF (Sanitary Dignity Implementation Framework) is implemented in collaboration with the Department of Health and HIV/AIDS Education Conditional Grant Programme. In doing so the Department aims not only to provide women and girls with sanitary pads, but also educate them on life-skills and HIV/AIDS. She stated that the Department of Education is the implementing body under the oversight and monitoring of the premiership.
Ms Sibiya stated that the programme will be implemented in identified schools with the aid of Life Skills teachers, who will identify vulnerable learners and provide the sanitary products in a dignified manner. She explained that Life Orientation (LO) teachers are currently in the process of identifying and compiling a list of potential beneficiaries, which must be approved by the schools’ principals before being finalised. The LO teachers are also envisioned to be mentors for female learner to ensure that the programme is implemented in a dignified manner.
Ms Sibiya explained that the Sanitary Dignity programme is already integrated with current school-based support programmes. Current Learner Support agents will receive orientation and training on the sanitary support programme to provide additional support.
At district level, Health and Wellness workers will be targeted for orientation and advocacy to strengthen capacity in order to ensure that schoolgirl receive adequate support.
Ms Sibiya added that provincial schools’ health teams will also receive orientation pertaining to the programme and be educated on advocacy for women and girls.
At a school level, the programme aims to capacitate and equip girls, while including boys in the conversation to enable them to advocate for the dignity of women and girls. She highlighted that education is the foundation of the project and the success of the programme in its entirety depends on successful implementation in schools.
In terms of how the programme will be coordinated on the ground, Ms Sibiya explained that upon delivery and acknowledgement of delivery and receipt document will be signed by the school principal. Learners will then sign a register as evidence that they have received the product. After learners have received the products, all copies of all acknowledgement receipts are sent to the Department for consolidation. The Department of Education will then report to the premiership for oversight.
The procurement process was done through women-owned retailers, who provided the Lil-Let brand, which was done through a once off quotation, as there was an immediate need. She indicated that the Department is in the process of concluding a three-year contract through the tender process. The cost per unit was R0.96, and a pack of eight costed R 7.68; a total of 500 000 single-use sanitary pads were procured. Currently, 31 718 girls have received sanitary pads through the programme.
Ms Sibiya explained that with respect to the 2020/2021 financial year, the Bid Specification Committee completed the specifications, which must still be approved. Although the Department aims to advertise the tender before the end of March, budget allocations for 2021 to 2023 are yet to be made.
Ms Sibiya informed Members that the project faced some delays due to procurement challenges. One of the key factors that affected the implementation of the programme is the rural nature of the Northern Cape, which increases travel costs, as towns and settlements are widely distributed.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Sibiya for her presentation and asked Members to deliberate on the presentation, before proceeding to the next one.
Ms B Maluleke (ANC) welcomed the Northern Cape presentation and asked what the role of the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Disability is pertaining to this programme and whether the Portfolio Committee on Education is the more appropriate committee.
Mr L Mphithi (DA) asked for more information pertaining to the companies that supplied the products, asking how much each company received and how much they supplied, respectively. Mr Mphithi noted the effects of the pandemic on the programme and asked for clarity on how learners were able to sign for the products, given the fact that schools were closed. He further asked how the Department aims to continue the implementing the programme in schools if there is another national lockdown.
In terms of sustainability, Mr Mphithi asked whether learners who received sanitary products in the first phase of the programme will also receive sanitary products in the second phase.
Ms F Masiko (ANC) stated that it is for the Committee to scrutinise spending to ensure that budgetary allocations meet the needs on the ground.
The Chairperson asked about young women and girls who are not attending school, such as girls in orphanages and welfare centres, asking how the Department aims to reach these girls.
The Chairperson asked on whether the Department had received any guidelines from Treasury pertaining to spending and procurement and how these guidelines were implemented.
Ms N Sharif (DA) noted that the presentation was brief. She observed that the programme used Life Orientation (LO) teachers as the main distributers of sanitary towels in schools, asking how girls were reassured and made comfortable to ask for sanitary products from male LO teachers.
Ms Sharif asked for more details on the delay in implementation. What was the delay and how was it resolved? Ms Sharif asked how many sanitary packs each girl received. She also asked for more clarity on the 67 000 learners who are yet to receive sanitary products, asking for more clarity on whether the procurement process for these learners has already begun or whether it is already included in the current drive. She also asked how often the consignments and distribution occur and how the Department ensures that these products are distributed fairly.
Mr S Ngcobo (DA) whether any of the companies that procured the products were owned by persons with disabilities.
Ms A Hlongo (ANC) asked whether any of the female company owners were women from rural areas. Ms Hlongo asked how the Department intended to distribute sanitary products during the school holidays.
Ms T Mgweba (ANC) asked what the role of local municipalities is pertaining to the programme and how the Department has built relationships with municipalities in this regard. She asked for a briefing on the exact implementation programme.
The Chairperson referred to the tender process and asked how the Department intended to include co-operatives, as the Committee intends for the programme to benefit women and persons with disabilities. She stated that she observed that there is a tendency for tenders to have a negative effect on small businesses and small business owners. She asked whether the Department could present a plan on how they intend to include small businesses and benefit the poor and prevent big business monopoly in the tender.
A Member asked what the role of the Portfolio Committee is, as the Ms Sibiya stated that the Provincial Department of Education was receiving oversight from the Northern Cape Premier. She also asked what the role of the Portfolio Committee on Education is in this regard, to avoid duplication. She asked about the lack of representation of the North West and KwaZulu-Natal provinces representatives from the meeting.
The Chairperson emphasised Ms Masondo’s question, as another Member had also asked the same question: why the premier is performing the Committee’s oversight duties.
Ms T Masondo (ANC) asked whether a provincial Sanitary Dignity Committee has been established to monitor the progress of the programme and to ensure that women benefit from the programme. If not, why?
The Chairperson commented that that question seeks to enquire that women and persons with disabilities benefit from the entire value chain.
Office of Premier Oversight
Mr Bekebeke explained that the oversight that the Premier provides is only pertaining to the coordination of the project itself and how it is carried out on the ground, adding that the Department of Education has to report on the implementation of the project every quarter. This is also to ensure that the funds are disbursed adequately and accurately and are used for the purposes of implementing the project. The provincial department then has to report to its respective Portfolio Committee to report that the project has been implemented in adherence to the Committee’s guidelines and whether the funds that were allocated have met their targets.
Girls and young women who do not attend school
Mr Bekebeke responded to the Chairperson’s question on girls and young women who are not in school, stating that the Department is currently in conversation with the Department of Social Development and the Department of Health on this issue, as a separate initiative would have to be established to meet this need. The Department of Education only focuses on the school going women and girls.
Mr Bekebeke handed over to the Ms Sibiya to clarify on the numbers.
Ms Sibiya stated that on the first consignment the programme reached 31 919 girl learners across the province and the second consignment added more grades to the programme, which resulted in a consignment to reach approximately 67 800 learners.
Ms Sibiya clarified that the Department’s implementation of the sanitary dignity programme is integrated with the teaching of sexual education in schools. The education programme is deliberately separated into sections for girls and sections for girls, with the aim of ensuring that male LO teachers teach the boys’ section and female LO teachers teach the female section. This will provide a more conducive environment for girls to receive sanitary products with dignity.
Ms Sibiya responded to Ms Sharif’s question on the frequency of the consignments, stating that the Department aims to distribute sanitary products every three months to the schools, clarifying that the schools themselves will distribute the products monthly.
The Chairperson asked Ms Sibiya to explain how the Department works with the local municipalities pertaining to the programme.
Ms Sibiya responded that the Department will be linking schools with their local municipality, as the municipalities will plan for the disposal of used sanitary products. The Department will also be meeting with the local municipalities to consult on how to include schools that are geographically situated far away from the municipality. This is especially important because used sanitary products pose a health hazard and should be disposed in a safe manner.
The CFO responded to Members’ questions pertaining to the procurement process stating that two companies were used to procure the sanitary products for the first round of distribution. The companies each supplied 500 000 sanitary towels respectively, which means that the total amount of sanitary towels amounted to one million.
The CFO explained that both companies are Northern Cape businesses, which are wholly owned by women, thus contributing to the local economy.
The CFO stated that the programme will span to include learners from Grade Four to twelve. As Ms Sibiya stated there are currently 67 000 learners benefitting from the programme.
The CFO responded that in terms of the products that are yet to be distributed. The Department has already initiated another procurement process to secure more sanitary products. There is a budget allocation of R3.8 million for this procurement, which will be enough funds to secure sanitary pads into the next financial year. There is already a framework in the tender procurement process to ensure that companies owned by youth, women and persons with disabilities receive additional scores to ensure that they have a fair chance of securing the tender.
The CFO responded to the Chairperson’s question, asking why there were delays in the implementation process, stating that the Department was affected by COVID-19 to a large extent last year, as preliminary specifications done at the beginning of 2020 were affected by the announcement of lockdown level five. The lockdown made it difficult to implement the tender process, as gatherings were banned, which caused delays in securing the funds from the National Treasury and implementing the project on the ground. The CFO explained that since the lifting of restrictions to level one the implementation of the programme has resumed.
Ms Sharif asked the CFO to provide information on the monetary values.
The CFO responded that the cost per unit was R0.90 for the first company and R0.96 per unit for the other company. This means that the Department paid R450 000 and R480 000, respectively. During the market research phase, the Department anticipated a cost per unit of R2 per unit, which is significantly higher than what the two companies supplied for quality products.
Ms Sharif asked for clarity on the frequency of the distribution, asking whether schools have autonomy to decide whether they distribute on a monthly or quarterly basis.
The Chairperson added that the Committee’s concern in this regard is whether there is uniformity in the implementation.
Ms Sibiya clarified that the Department advised schools to distribute the products on a monthly basis to avoid shortages. This is because school going girls may be sharing the products with other female siblings or family members at home, which may cause them to run out before the next consignment. The Department aims to provide security for the products as much as possible to ensure that only the school-going-girls are the beneficiaries.
Ms M Hlengwa (ANC) asked how many schools would benefit from the sanitary dignity programme. She further asked whether the Department aims to enact policy that will ensure that women and girls can receive sanitary pads for free.
Mr Mphithi posed a question aimed on evaluations, asking how the Department to explain the nature of its relationship with the province been, as it could provide more clarity on how the Department of Women Youth and Persons with disabilities is communicating with the provinces. He observed that there was a lack of uniformity in the Department’s workings with the provinces, which could pose challenges to the Portfolio Committee in executing its oversight duties effectively.
Ms Sibiya stated that the Department mainly aims to first address the poorest schools, specifically targeting schools with indigent learners where there is a great need for the sanitary products.
Ms Sibiya stated that the Department is working closely with the Infrastructure Chief Directorate to address the more practical challenges of repairing broken sanitation facilities such as taps and toilets.
Ms Sibiya explained that the Department is having national meetings with the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities pertaining to evaluations. These meetings have been on virtual platforms and invites to the attendees have been sent through the office of the premier.
The Chairperson thanked the Northern Cape Department of Education for their presentation, stating that she will be keeping a close eye on the procurement process to ensure that youth, women and persons of disabilities benefit from the procurement process.
The Chairperson welcomed delegates from the Western Cape to present their implementation of the sanitary dignity process.
Western Cape Sanitary Dignity Programme
Mr Mzwandile Hewu, Chief Director: Community and Partnership Development, Western Cape Department of Social Development, thanked the Chairperson for the invitation and expressed apologies on behalf of the MEC and the Head of Department, who were unable to attend the meeting due to preceding commitments. Mr Hewu indicated that he is joined by a delegate from the Western Cape Department of Education, as the programme is being implemented in schools with close collaboration between the Department of Social Development and the Department of Education.
Mr Hewu apologised to the Committee that there have been delays in implementing the programme, as there were challenges posed by the pandemic, which resulted in the Department having to revisit the bidding process in order to ensure that the tender recipients meet the Portfolio Committee’s specifications. Mr Hewu handed over to Ms Nina Klein for the presentation.
Ms Nina Klein, Western Cape Department of Social Development, presented that the objective of the programme is to provide female learners with sanitary products in the province. She stated that the Department aims to reach 221 schools and 90 000 female learners and has currently accommodated about 94 000 learners. The scope of the programme stretches to include learners from Grade four to 12, including learners who are 19 years old. Ms Klein stated that all quintiles have been included. The Western Cape Sanitary Dignity Programme accommodates both urban and rural schools.
Ms Klein stated that the Provincial Department of Social Development (DSD) is currently collaborating with the Provincial Department of Education and the National Department of Social Development at all levels in order to optimise capacity for the programme’s implementation.
Delays in Western Cape Implementation
In 2019, there were delays in the procurement process caused by non-compliance submissions. However, the Department managed to secure the product by the end of February.
In 2020, the Western Cape Department of Social Development faced coordination and implementation challenges, mainly stemming from the need to consult with all the relevant stakeholders to ensure cohesion. Ms Klein cited the fact that the Department has identified eight regions in the Western Cape where the programme will be implemented, whereas the Department of Education has identified six districts, reiterating the need for close collaboration and consultation to ensure cohesive implementation of the programme.
The rural Cape Winelands and Karoo regions have the highest number of schools benefitting from the programme, accounting for 27% and 20%, respectively. She commented that there seems to be an even distribution between fee paying and non-fee-paying schools. Over one million products were procured for distribution.
In the 2019/2020 financial year, the Department secured a total of 1 083 000 packets of pads. The Stay-free brand was used, whereby one packet consisted of ten pads. There was SABS (South African Bureau of Standards) compliance testing that required for evidence to be provided to the Department, which was included in the tender process. The cost price per product is R9.50 per product. The bidding for the 2021 financial year has already begun.
Local Economic Activities
The Department has pursued local partnerships with a preferential focus for women and people with disabilities for procurement. The warehousing tender is woman owned, the product supplier is Johnson and Johnson, but the service provider is a local service provider. The entire procurement process took into account the PPR requirements, which takes women and persons with disability in consideration.
The distribution process is currently under review by the Department of Education and the Department of Social Development, as there have been changes to the school year, due to the pandemic. The Department distribution was intended to be on a monthly basis, but the distribution may be staggered due to the uncertainty of the school programme and products may be doubled in one distribution if necessary, in order to ensure that learners have sanitary products when schooling is attended online.
Products are securely stored in warehouses managed by the Department, which have adequate pest control and security to ensure the safety of the products.
The Department is currently in talks with the Department of Education to find a sustainable way of disposing the products. There is an ongoing menstrual health management survey, which will be concluded in December to gather more information on the best practices and current menstrual health practices.
Ms Klein lamented that some quintile one schools struggle to access basic sanitary products, such as toilet paper and toilet infrastructure, which means that there is a need for the DSD and Department of Education to collaborate and find alternative solutions.
The Department has included menstrual health and sexual education campaigns targeted towards both male and female learners. Although the operational plan is currently in development, there have been delays in gathering all stake-holding departments’ responses to the pandemic.
The DSD has employed the use of a log sheet, which is available upon request. The distribution of product is monitored and checked by the DSD, while the distribution to the female learners is monitored and tracked by the Department of Education. There are regular meetings that are convened between the education task team and the DSD task team as needed.
Ms Klein commented that the DSD is cognisant that the DSD may have difficulty accessing basic sanitary product, such as soap and toilet paper in general, stating that alternative interventions may be necessary in this regard. The DSD has consulted with the Department of Health on how to make pain medication more accessible to female learners who may be staying away from school due to menstrual pains.
Ms Klein informed the Committee that there is an ongoing warehouse dispute, which may result in legal action. The DSD is currently waiting for legal advice on the matter.
The MEC and the Heads of Department have supported the programme and there are currently plans to scale up the programme to reach more girls.
The Chairperson remarked that small disposable bags could be distributed with the sanitary pads to enable the girls to dispose of used pads safely. Disposing the pads in a safe manner is a matter of dignity.
The Chairperson asked Ms Klein to provide further details on the warehouse dispute.
Ms Klein informed the Committee that the Department had procured warehouse space of approximately 700 square metres. However, at the time of delivery the landlord informed the DSD that the warehouse renovations were not complete yet and provided an alternative storage space within the complex. Subsequently, the National State of Disaster was declared, and a dispute arose pertaining to the rental amount.
Mr Hewu added that according to the landlord, the Department is liable for rent from June 2020. However, the DSD was not informed that the renovations were completed. The Department was only told to move from the alternative storage space in September and is willing to pay rent from September and not June. The Department has asked for legal advice on the matter.
The Chairperson thanked the Western Cape delegation for their presentation and invited Members to ask questions.
Ms Sharif explained that the pain associated with menstruation is often severe in young women and girls. She shared her personal experience of having to take pain medication to alleviate the pain and better be able to concentrate during the working day. She commended the DSD for recognising the issue and asked the Portfolio Committee to support them in meeting the need to make pain medication more accessible to female learners.
Ms Sharif stated that the ten pads that are being distributed to each learner are not adequate for the duration of the period. She stated that the need for girls to have to resort to rationing the sanitary pads may impair their dignity, asking what methods were used to calculate that ten pads would be enough.
Ms Sharif asked for further details on the frequency of the distributions, asking how many sanitary products were distributed to the girls every month and how this is done. She asked whether the products were distributed to the schools quarterly and subsequently distributed by the schools monthly or whether the province distributed to the schools monthly.
Ms Sharif further asked that Ms Klein provide more information on the criteria used to identify the schools.
Ms Sharif asked for more clarity on whether the number of girls amounting to 94 000 is the number of girls who have received products, or if they are yet to receive the products.
The Chairperson commented that some women and girls experience heavier menstruation and that the flow fluctuates monthly. She advised the provinces to conduct interviews to gather more information in this regard.
Ms Masiko asked whether the Western Cape Department of Social Development has a relationship with the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. She further asked how persons of disabilities have benefitted from the value chain of the programme. Are there any plans of including young women in the production and manufacturing of sanitary products?
Ms Mgweba asked what the product cost and project allocation costs are in terms of the 2021/2022 budget. She also asked whether there would be difficulties if the entire distribution was wholly managed by one Department instead of two.
The Chairperson said she was confused as to what the budget amount allocated to the Western Cape Department of Social Development was, asking for clarity on the matter.
Ms Mgweba clarified that, according to the report, the Department had allocated R2.5 million for sanitary products in 2020 and subsequently allocated R10 million for the next year. She asked for holistic explanation regarding the costs of the products and the operational costs.
Ms Hlengwa stated that there are key challenges that have been identified in the presentation, one of them being the effect of pandemic of on the school programme and sequitur effect on the distribution of the products. Ms Hlengwa asked how the Department aims to address the issue.
Ms Hlengwa concurred with Ms Masiko’s question, asking whether there are any measures in place to curtail the looting of the programme.
Ms M Sonti (EFF) stated that women, youth and persons with disabilities are supposed to be benefit from the programme. She explained that schools in rural areas may not have running water in their toilets, which may make it difficult for them to maintain basic sanitation.
The Chairperson agreed and commented that the question in this regard is poised on what the working relationship is with local municipalities.
The Chairperson invited the Western Cape Department to respond.
Mr Hewu answered that the DSD is responsible for liaising with courier services to deliver the consignment to the school. At the school, the principal will sign for receipt of the consignment and proceed with distributing the sanitary products with teachers. The school uses a list of learners who have been identified to benefit from the programme based on school absenteeism and other factors to distribute the products. The school will distribute the products directly to the identified learners.
Mr Hewu responded to the Chairperson stating that the total budget for the programme for 2019/2020 financial year was R 23 million, with R 8.7 million being a National Treasury allocation and R14.995 million stemming from the provincial budget. For 2020/2021 the Department already had the stock in the warehouse and the Department had to apply for a rollover of the funds, which were subsequently reprioritised for COVID-19 Emergency Food Relief. Thus, the total budget for 2020/2021 was R2.5 million, but there is still remaining stock that will be distributed. For this reason, the R2.5 million will mainly be used to cover operational cost. In the 2021 financial year the Department is expecting a total budget of R10 000 509, which will be spilt to cover operational costs and procurement of the product. The DSD has also decided to move from the disputed warehouse to a government warehouse to make more funds available for procuring the product.
Ms Klein responded to Ms Sharif’s question pertaining to the number of pads, stating that the programme is still in its pilot stage and that the Department is learning as the programme progresses. The Sanitary Dignity Programme was partly inspired by the University of Stellenbosch Law Clinic article, which found that 30 % of female learners are absent from school because they cannot afford sanitary products. This informed the use of absentee rates to identify learners to benefit from the programme. The focus is to ensure that the girls receive products, but the girls reserve the right to refuse the product; this has occurred. She acknowledged that currently female learners are given one product each, but the DSD and schools’ do accommodate girls to receive additional products if they are sanitary products available.
Ms Klein stated that the implementation of the programme in rural areas has numerous challenges and noted Members’ concerns, stating that there are ongoing discussions in the provincial committee meetings on how to address these issues.
Mr Lionel Arnolds, Director: Community Development, Western Cape Department of Social Development, responded that there have been a number of engagements on reporting and challenges that the DSD has had. He responded Ms Hlengwa’s question stating that the DSD has an integrated approach with the Department of Education, which means when schools closed it resulted in a halt of distribution and the DSD is yet to resume the programme pending a meeting with the Department of Education to finalise the plans for distributions. The Department has learned that it is important to include and plan for unforeseen events given the current climate.
Mr Arnolds stated that there is a procedural framework in place to ensure that the reporting and distribution matches the budget allocation.
The Chairperson invited Members to make further contributions.
Ms Sharif asked for more information on the Menstrual Health Survey, stating that this could also be an idea that the other provinces can embark on and could potentially include questions to ascertain the average amount of sanitary pads female learners use.
Ms Sharif conceded that ten pads are a good starting point, but there is still room to provide more sanitary pads.
The Chairperson thanked the Western Cape delegates for their contributions and directed Members to the Gauteng presentation.
Gauteng Sanitary Dignity Programme
Ms Morakane Mosupyoe, Gauteng MEC for Social Development, thanked the Chairperson for her opening remarks and lamented that the death toll of COVID-19 has become a personal matter, where everyone knows someone who has succumbed to the virus. She expressed relief at the arrival of the vaccine.
The Gauteng implementation of the programme was poised on ensuring children remain in school and realise their academic potential. The Gauteng Department of Social Development is in close collaboration with the Department of Education and other departments to ensure a successful outcome. The MEC noted that all the provincial departments were involved in the programme to varying degrees.
Mr Solly Ndweni, Acting DDG, Gauteng Department of Social Development, commenced with the presentation. He stated that the purpose of the presentation is to inform the Committee on the implementation of the programme. He stated that the DSD aims to reach 950 schools in the 2020/2021 financial year, but the Department has currently only managed to reach 375 725 learners across 482 schools throughout the province. Like the other provinces the Gauteng Department of Social Development also aims to reach female learners in quintile one schools with a strong focus on Gauteng’s rural schools.
In Gauteng, the procurement is done through Small and Medium Enterprises (SMME’s). The dignity packs consist of: 10 winged sanitary towels, 80 ml roll-on deodorant, 100g bath soap, 150 ml body lotion, toilet paper roll 400-500 sheets and 100 ml toothpaste. The Department has also included additional items for children with albinism, including fragrance free aqueous cream, lip balm (lipsano SPF 30) 7g, sun hat with a brim, sun screen 200ml with SPF 30. The products for children with albinism have been procured in consultation with the Department of Health.
The DSD has initiated a household profiling plan to further aid in identifying vulnerable learners who may have been excluded from the initial learner identification phase.
Mr Ndweni explained that the products are delivered to schools monthly and that there is accountability mechanisms that will be further elaborated upon during the monitoring section of the presentation.
There are about 482 schools that have been nominated to benefit from the programme. Teachers play a significant role in identifying and distributing the products.
Procurement and Key Partners
Mr Ndweni stated that the Gauteng Department of Social Development is the leading entity in the distribution of dignity packs, on behalf of the Gauteng Government, and is responsible for the roll-out of the project in close collaboration with Gauteng Department of Education. The Gauteng DSD aims to include women and persons with disabilities in the procurement value chain.
The Department continuously engages the private sector to partner with the government in making sanitary products more accessible to women and girls.
Mr Ndweni pointed out that the private sector independently spends large sums of money on similar initiatives, stressing that it is imperative that the government encourages the private sector to partner with the governments programme as much as possible to avoid duplication.
Mr Ndweni highlighted that the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disability has contributed immensely in ensuring that the programme is holistic. He explained that the DSD had sent delegates to the Free State to enquire on the manufacturing process. Gauteng intends to build the foundational knowledge that will enable the province to participate in the manufacturing of sanitary products.
Mr Ndweni explained that all the products were procured through the government procurement process to ensure that quality products are procured; women, youth and persons with disabilities are included in the procurement process.
Mr Ndweni presented that of the four companies that were used in the procurement process, three are women owned and one is youth owned and there is one company owned by persons with disabilities. He added that there are five women owned co-operatives in the involved in manufacturing toilet paper and packaging products.
The products are stored at the cooperatives that are doing the backpacking; once the packaging is done the company that does logistics may collect and store items in preparation for delivery to schools.
Once distributed, acknowledgement of receipt by identified beneficiaries is submitted to the Department by means of a form, which includes a list signed by beneficiaries. The form is stamped and signed by the school principal or delegated authority as one of the control measures for auditing.
In 2019/2020 financial year the Gauteng DSD had a budget of approximately R145 million and only spent R68 million. He explained that there were delays in the procurement process, which affected the expenditure. In the current financial year, the Department has spent R22 million of the total budget of R78 million.
When each learner receives a package, they will sign for it themselves and the MME will meticulously scrutinise the information to ascertain whether the paper trail matches the distribution data. In signing for the packages, learners and teachers must include their ID numbers – which makes it easier to trace a package to a person.
The MME also does random spot checks by visiting schools randomly to confirm whether learners have received their packages.
The DSD continues to commit to the implementation of the programme and to work closely with local municipalities and other Departments to alleviate the effects of poverty.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Ndweni for the detailed presentation. The Chairperson asked how the Department intended to include women and girls living in foster care.
The Chairperson stated that she was informed that some of the funds distributed to the programme were used to procure food parcels, asking why this was done and how the food parcels were procured and distributed.
Mr Ndweni stated that the Department did not repurpose funds and redirect them towards purchasing food parcels per se, but rather that owing to the Lockdown there was a great need in the province for food security intervention measures, as people became unemployed and needed immediate relief. As the procurement process would have taken time, a decision was taken to reprioritise some remaining funds from the Sanitary Dignity Programme to buy and distribute food parcels as there was an immediate need. The nature in which this was done ensured that the supply of sanitary products to schools continued.
The MEC agreed and added that the hotline that was set up by the PCC received a high volume of distress calls from people who were requesting food and immediate interventions were necessary to alleviate the situation.
Ms Maluleke stated that Gauteng’s presentation was commendable. She enquired on the nature of the Department’s relationship with the Footprints Foundation. She asked whether there was any manufacturing of sanitary products in the province at the moment. She asked whether it was possible to increase the number of cooperatives involved in the manufacturing process instead of partnering with private companies.
The Chairperson agreed with this question and asked for more information on the Department’s partnership with private companies, stating that the word “private company” usually connotes bug business, whereas there may be women, youth and persons with disabilities owning and managing private companies. Thus, it is important to clarify who the Department is partnering with in this regard.
The Chairperson stated that the there is a need to clarify what the content of the sanitary packs is across the provinces, so that there is uniformity.
Ms Sharif asked whether the Department has a relationship with the Albinism Society in distributing the skin care products and monitoring the distribution. She asked for more information on the criteria used to identify people who would benefit from the programme.
Ms Sonti stated that she had previously observed the looting of programmes meant to alleviate poverty and asked for government officials to be truthful in reporting to the Committee, to enable the Committee to perform its oversight duties as best as possible.
Mr Mphithi asked about the distribution process, stating that there is no uniformity in the products that are distributed to learners across the provinces. He commended Gauteng for being transparent in disclosing what products were used. He felt that it is unfair that learners in some provinces are benefitting more from the programme than in other provinces. How does the national Department aim to ensure that there is uniformity in this regard?
Mr Mphithi asked for confirmation whether the number of schools reflected on the presentation is in fact the total number of schools in the district. Mr Mphiti’s question was poised on inferring whether the 39 schools that have benefitted from the programme in Sedibeng is, in fact, the total number of schools who have benefitted from the programme.
Mr Mphithi asked considering the delays presented by the uncertainty pertaining to the academic year what measures have been made to mitigate the implementation and distribution delays. He noted that the distribution in Gauteng was being done by appointed transportation companies and asked for more details on the budget allocation for transportation. He further asked the Department to provide the Committee with the names of the women owned companies that benefitted from the programme’s value chain.
Mr Ngcobo asked whether a provincial Committee has been established for tracking and monitoring the programmes progress. Mr Ngcobo also asked what the role of social cluster departments is in contributing to the dignity packs.
The MEC thanked Members for their questions. She stated that the questions requiring more detailed information will be responded to through email correspondence, as the information may not be readily available during the meeting.
The MEC responded to Ms Sonti’s comments on corruption and maladministration. She stated that the meticulous paper trail and auditing of the distributions are some of the mechanisms that are in place to limit corruption and looting of the programme.
Mr Ndweni responded to Ms Maluleke’s question on private companies, stating that big businesses partner with the Department as part of their corporate social investment responsibilities, primarily through donations. He explained that big businesses do not play a role in the procurement process. The Gauteng DSD partners with the Footprints Foundation to help close gaps in the distribution or to provide alternative support.
Mr Ndweni stated that there is currently no manufacturing of sanitary products in Gauteng, stating that the DSD is currently gathering information on how to go about bringing the supply chain closer.
The Chairperson stated that the DSD could initiate the process by identifying cooperatives that could become potential suppliers and consider incubating them and providing support for economic development.
The MEC agreed with the Chairperson and noted her contributions stating that a meeting will be scheduled with the DDG to further investigate the matter.
Mr Ndweni responded to Ms Sharif’s question stating the Gauteng DSD consulted with the Albinism Society to identify children who would benefit from the programme. However, the Department was still responsible for ensuring that the children with albinism who have been identified are recipients of the programme.
Mr Ndweni responded to Mr Mphithi stating that there is a need to standardise the sanitary packs. He explained that standards can be agreed upon by having meetings with other provinces and evaluating the sanitary packs to reach a consensus on what to include in the packs. Pertaining to the number of schools he responded that the slides show what was targeted and what was reached, clarifying that the total number of schools reached is 482.
Mr Ndweni stated that more detailed information and the names of the cooperatives involved will be submitted to the Committee Secretary.
Mr Ndweni responded that social cluster departments are focused on keeping children in school and enabling them to have a successful education outcome. The Gauteng DSD is also looking into how girls participating in sports can also be included.
Members were satisfied with the Gauteng Department of Social Development asked the Committee secretary to follow up on the matter.
The Chairperson invited Ms Shoki Tshabalala, DDG, Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD), to make her contributions.
Ms Tshabalala said that she was receiving positive feedback from the provinces in the implementation of the programme. She noted, however, that there is a need to reach out to women led businesses and provide them with more information on the tender process so that they may be included in the manufacturing process.
She added that she noted the concerns on menstrual pain management and responded that the Department had reservations in providing young school going children with pain medication, as this may be harmful without prior knowledge of the children’s medical history and their reaction to the pain medication may be unforeseen. Furthermore, there were also religious concerns about providing children with pain medication, as some religious communities do not subscribe to the use of western medicine.
Ms Tshabalala stated that the Department will revert to the Committee in this regard after investigations on how best to provide medication in a safe manner and how to avoid litigation through the use of safety mechanisms such as parental consent indemnity forms.
Ms Tshabalala stated that the issue of uniformity is a budget of matter, as provinces receive varying amounts from the National Treasury depending on the population of school children and various other factors. The DDG responded that the Department will investigate further on how to implement a minimum threshold for the contents of the sanitary dignity packs.
Role of municipalities
The issue on the involvement of municipalities has been a standing item on the Department’s agenda and should be included in the MEC’s forum’s meetings as well.
Ms Tshabalala suggested that the provinces implement a more proactive approach in reaching learners in the event of a hard lockdown, stating that this matter will be echoed to the national task team as well.
The Tshabalala stated that the collaborations in the provincial government have been a formidable effort and implored the provinces to continue in this vein.
Limpopo Sanitary Dignity Programme
Mr M Mhlongo, Acting DDG: Institutional Governance, Coordination and Support Branch, Limpopo Department of Education, commenced with the Limpopo presentation. He presented that the sanitary dignity programme was informed by the fact that one in 10 girls stay out of school, due to the unaffordability of sanitary products. This programme was being implemented in the province for the first time. The programme was focused on addressing the need in quintile one, two and three schools.
The Limpopo Department of Education is responsible for the implementation of the sanitary dignity programme in the province. A provincial committee has been established for better coordination of the programme and is composed of members from affiliated provincial departments, such as the Department of Education, Department of Health and the Arts Department.
Mr Mhlongo explained that at the peak of the implementation of the programme, the Department faced challenges in securing service providers, due to a lack of capacity presented by the fact that the same structures were intended to facilitate teachers’ advocacy workshops.
Mr Mhlongo explained that the Sanitary Dignity Programme is located within the Department of Education’s Institutional Governance and Support branch (ICGS), adding that within there are business support units, which deal with the Integrated School Health programme. This programme serves the foundation for menstrual health education.
The Chairperson interrupted the presentation, stating that the presentation was rather confusing and that the Committee was more interested in the budget allocations and how the funds were used to implement the programme.
Mr Mhlongo responded that these concerns will be resolved in the next phase of the presentation.
Value Chain and Procurement
The sanitary pads are manufactured in Cape Town and delivered to a central warehouse in Polokwane. Mr Mhlongo explained that there is a Limpopo based sub-contractor who will be distributing the sanitary products to the schools.
Mr Mhlongo stated that the Department will be distributing the sanitary products on a three-month quarterly basis. The Department has adopted this approach to protect the schools from burglary, as many schools had previously reported burglaries in relation to the government’s previous food initiatives.
Mr Mhlongo explained to the Committee that the Department followed the Preferential Procurement Guidelines of 2017 to secure tenderers. The Department subsequently awarded a bid to service providers following these guidelines and employed Lion Match, the Cape Town based manufacturer and sub-contracted Limpopo based company, Molebopen Trading Enterprise cc, which is wholly owned by a young black woman.
With regards to the procurement processes, Dr Mhlongo explained that it was a requirement that no manufacturer can be approved unless it can demonstrate that the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has actually written off a letter that confirms that it has been to the manufacturers’ plant and is satisfied with the manufacturing procedures that are followed. All those that have been appointed have fully complied with what was required.
Beneficiaries and Target Group
Dr Mhlongo pointed out that there was a mistake on the presentation slide which had not been corrected before the presentation. He told the Committee that the beneficiaries were supposed to be changed to read Grade six to eight. The reason for this change is because there has been input from the principal’s of the different schools which resulted in the change and the focus being shifted to grades six to eight as the starting point for the Department. This will be for learners in quintile one to three public primary and secondary and also special schools across schools 10 education districts, which are within five Municipality Districts.
The Chairperson asked Dr Mhlongo to explain why the Department wants to change the beneficiaries from Grade five to six.
Dr Mhlongo explained, in response, that the Department is aware that there are learners in grade five who are already experiencing menstruation, who deserve to be given sanitary pads. The Department is just emphasising that its primary focus will Grades six, seven and eight as a starting point for the programme. This does not mean that the Department will not be taking care of learners in Grade five. He went on to say that the Department will share the numbers with the Committee in the next slide.
The Chairperson interjected to say that the Department cannot do that simply because there are girls that are in grade five that have already started their menstruation cycle, who are in need and come from poor communities and families that cannot afford to buy the girl learners sanitary pads. She reminded the Department that when the time for accounting comes, it will be required to account according to what it has written in its reports. There will be a time when the Committee will invite all Provinces to appear before it to account. This will mean that this Department will account for the sanitary dignity pads programme.
The Committee has taken upon itself to monitor and conduct oversight of this specific programme. Therefore, if the Department has not included grade five, it will be easy for officials to report to the Committee that in the Annual Performance Plan (APP) it had specified that it will start with Grade six, which then makes it easy for Grade fives to be left out. The Chairperson emphasised that the Committee does not want Grade five to the removed. She said that it would be more correct for the programme to start from grade five up to grade eight.
Dr Mhlongo confirmed that the Department has made a note of the Chairperson’s recommendation and going forward it will do it as that directive.
The lists of orphans and vulnerable children will be the Department’s starting point. Schools have been directed to look at those lists and as soon as they have done that; the girls that are already menstruating will be determined so that the Department can get their names in order to determine exactly where it is starting. Dr Mhlongo said that the Department will start with schools in rural areas, schools which fall under quintile one to three; it will then come back to the townships, etc. This will all be dependent on what the Departments budget will allow. Regarding the special schools, all girls in special schools who are already menstruating will be given sanitary pads.
The Chairperson asked: since the Department is saying that it will give sanitary pads to girls in quintile one to three schools, is it saying that the parents of girls in other schools can afford to buy sanitary pads?
Dr Mhlongo responded that the Department’s focus is currently on ordinary public schools that fall within quintile one to three. Special schools are not included in the quintile categorisation as they are simply referred to as special schools. In terms of special schools, all the girls in these schools will be provided with sanitary pads. However, in quintiles one to three schools, it would not necessarily be all the girls, as it will depend on what the Department budget will allow. The Department will start with the poorest of the poor.
The Chairperson asked if this meant that the Department would deplete all of its funds. She said that she does not want learners who are in need to be disadvantaged and felt that the children of public officials that are in these public schools within quintile one to three, will unfairly benefit from the programme whereas their parents can afford. These parents that can afford to buy sanitary pads for their children in such schools must do so for their children.
Referring to the second bullet on the presentation under the heading ‘Beneficiaries and Target Group’, Dr Mhlongo re-emphasised that the schools have the names of all vulnerable children that will be the starting point from where the Department will work.
Schools will be able to submit the learners names until the Districts are able to hand them over to the Provincial office, then the Department will be able to deal with them. This is very urgent, as the Department is supposed to give the service providers the total number of girls from the different schools, so that they will know how to package the sanitary pads as and when they make deliveries when the schools re-open on 15 February 2021.
Number of beneficiaries
Dr Mhlongo explained that the Department was merely sharing the numbers according to the data it has in relation to this slide. He said that the slide will need to be adjusted to include Grade five learners which had been taken out. He also explained that the age of learners at special schools varies because of the configuration at these schools.
The Chairperson pointed out that the Department has not included foster care. Dr Mhlongo positively confirmed that this is true.
MSTF (Medium-Term Strategic Framework) Allocation for SDP
In the 2019/2020 financial year, the Department was given R19.9 million. Dr Mhlongo confirmed that unfortunately the Department lost the funds because when a bid was advertised the manufacturers were not prepared to sub-contract until the Department had to re-advertise for the bid and there was a briefing session that thoroughly took manufacturers through the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA) of 2017. This Act explains why government is saying that manufacturers should sub-contract the locals. Manufacturers understood and that is why this time around there was a breakthrough.
The budget for the current financial year is R32.749 million, which the Department is supposed to be using. An order will be released and service providers will hit the ground running to make sure that they deliver the sanitary pads.
Dr Mhlongo noted that the Committee had proposed a powerful idea that the Department had taken. Each learner should have a small plastic, where it will place the pad, tie it up and dispose of it somewhere. This is the engagement that the Department is having with local municipalities.
Monitoring of the programme
The Department has been attending the National Task Team for the sanitary pads programme where all provinces converge. This is led by the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD), which is working with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) and the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) and National Treasury. At that level the Department was able to come up with the M&E framework that it will be using.
Because schools will send a list of the girls to the Department, it will be against the same list that the girls will sign off as and when they receive sanitary pads. So when the Department monitors, it will be going to schools to confirm that the girls received the sanitary pads and also having conversations with the girls, because it wants to understand the kind of comfort that this programme has brought to the girls. Dr Mhlongo said that the Department will share with the Committee the girls’ utterances.
The Department will call on other M&E officials from other Departments, through the office of the Premier, to become part of the monitoring team of this programme. The aim of the programme is to combat the learner dropout rate. Dr Mhlongo said that the Department expects the retention rate to increase because of the programme.
The National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) is a sub-unit of the Department of Basic Education in Pretoria.
Dr Mhlongo pointed out that in the province there are approx. half a million girl learners between Grades four and 12. The Department will not have enough funding to accommodate all of them.
He said that disposal facilities are still a challenge for the Limpopo government, but the Department believes that in six months’ time it will be able to share the experiences that it has come across. Thanking the Committee for arranging the meeting, Dr Mhlongo highlighted that it is through the meeting that the Department was able to get some lessons from the sister Provinces that are ahead, that will empower it.
Dr Mhlongo said that the Department will not interfere with the preference of some families that their daughters bring home the sanitary pads that they have used, so that they can burn them because it is a particular belief from those families and the Department will respect that.
The Department is concerned that some family members might be helping themselves to the learners’ sanitary pads. So the Department finds itself torn between giving the girls the sanitary pads to take home and keeping them. But by keeping them it will have to be off the school premises because the Department is worried about thugs breaking in.
Responding to that point, the Chairperson said that there is nothing that the Department can do. With the one packet that the learner takes home no one knows how many people are in the family at home and how the learners store their pads. The best thing that the Department can do is to state that teachers must interview learners to determine which one of them has their menstruation cycle for seven days. For those that have a seven day menstruation cycle, it is impossible that the girl can use one sanitary pad for the whole day. Some girls, because of their flow, may change their sanitary pads twice or thrice in one day.
What is critical is that there is a need that when teachers write the names of the girls they must also understand their bodies in terms of how they go through the menstruation cycle so that it is not assumed that all girls have the same menstruation cycle pattern.
Dr Mhlongo pointed out that he forgot to mention that the Department has two types of packaging. The first is 12 sanitary pads in a pack and the second is 15 sanitary pads in a pack. The 15 sanitary pads pack was introduced because of the issue of flow amongst the girls not being the same. Learners that are experiencing an overflow will be provided with the 15 pack by the female teachers.
In conclusion, Dr Mhlongo said that it is the hope of the Department that funds will be made available within the context of the budget constraints that the entire country is experiencing. The programme will enable the girl learner to remain in school because some learners would find themselves leaving because they fear being embarrassed.
The funds that have been allocated will be available till the end of March. Come April, the Department hopes that another budget will be allocated. He said that the numbers will be covered by the current budget and when the April budget has been allocated it will be additional. Moving forward, the Department will use those details to show the Committee a fuller picture.
The Chairperson asked Dr Mhlongo if the Department has considered including the boy child and to confirm if the Department is only dealing with issues relating to the girl child.
Dr Mhlongo responded by saying that at the present the Department has not considered the boy child and that it is only dealing with issues relating to the girl child.
Referring to the presentation by the Gauteng province, the Chairperson pointed out how it had detailed what the packs consisted of and suggested that maybe the Limpopo province should consider that also because oral hygiene is also important.
The Chairperson thanked the Acting Head of Department (HOD) and Dr Mhlongo for the Department’s presentation. She also went on to point out that she was saddened that the Department had deprived women of the opportunity to be involved in the programme. The fact that the service provider is in Cape Town and not in Limpopo is a clear indication of this. She told the Department that the Committee has received many written complaints from women in the province about the tender process and everything else surrounding this project.
The Chairperson implored the Department to not repeat the same mistake going forward, as it has disadvantaged a lot of women in the rural areas. A suggestion was made that the Department should furnish the Committee with a report listing the companies that have been awarded the tender and the ones the Department has sub-contracted. In this way the Committee will be able to determine if the contracts were given to women from disadvantaged communities to distribute the sanitary dignity packs or not. She also cautioned the Department to take this issue seriously because following the pronouncement made by the President that 40% of procurement must benefit women, the Committee will be doing regular follow ups.
Another suggestion that the Chairperson made was that the Department should follow Gauteng’s example in relation to how it has reduced the burden from Government in terms of dealing with people who earn a social grant, by introducing some additional programmes.
Limpopo province is in an advantageous position because it is an agricultural province, so a lot can be done by it for women, youth and persons living with disabilities.
Members were then given the opportunity to raise questions and comments.
Ms Hlengwa welcomed the presentation from the Limpopo province. She then proceeded to put questions forward to the Department based on its presentation. Why did used a company from Cape Town rather than from Limpopo for its manufacturing? Does this mean that the people of Limpopo have no capacity to do the work? Why does the Department not capacitate the people of Limpopo so that they can do the work in their own province?
In terms of procurement, Ms Hlengwa said that she was not convinced that the procurement process was handled correctly simply because women, youth and persons with disabilities were not fully involved in the various procurements, but instead they are sub-contractors. Why does the Department not develop or prepare them to be suitable for the job? She asked that the Department provide clarity regarding that.
Ms Sharif thanked the Department for its presentation but went on to admit that it made her cringe every time Dr Mhlongo said ‘my girls’ throughout the presentation. Even though she understood where he was coming from, she said that it is important for everyone to understand that the girls are individual beings and how everyone speaks should be corrected going forward. Even though her first question was covered by Ms Hlengwa regarding the manufacturing of the sanitary pads, she added that the delivery from Cape Town to Limpopo is another cost on its own and that the money that was coming out of the budget for the delivery costs is money that should be used on the girls. The sentiment is that there is no value for money aspect in doing things this way.
Asking her second question, Ms Sharif enquired about the R32.7 million that has been allocated for the 2020/21 financial year. What is the current spending in terms of how the budget currently looks? What has the spending been on procuring and manufacturing the pads and what have the operational costs been, because this breakdown has not been provided? She also went on to emphasise that budgets are very important and has noted that the different provinces have not come to the Committee with their full budget breakdowns and this has become a concern as it is the Committee’s job to ensure accountability of the departments.
Ms Sharif asked why the girl learners will only start receiving sanitary pads in March when schools will open on February. The Committee needs to get an understanding of why there is a delay in that regard.
In terms of target setting, she said it is important to note that the province did not meet its target set for the 2019/20 financial year. If targets could not be met in the 2019/20 financial year, where the target was lower, how would they be met in the 2020/21 financial year where there has been a 400 000 learner increase in the province? Ms Sharif said that she was extremely concerned about this.
The fact that there are 12 or 15 sanitary pads in a pack is great because the more sanitary pads available in a pack the better. How much is the Department paying manufacturers for the production of the sanitary pads? Also, is it paying per unit, per pad or per pack?
How many products have been procured to date and what is the cost involved? How much did the Department order, how much did it pay and where is all the money going to?
Ms Sharif also asked why the evaluation will be done by an external organisation and not necessarily within the province. Is there a cost benefit to doing it this way?
She also went on to say that she wished that the province could bring back the budget breakdown because like Ms Hlengwa she is convinced that the procurement is done where there is value for money and the Committee would appreciate a complete breakdown of the money in terms of what has been spent, where and why.
Speaking to what Ms Sharif had said in relation to the budget, the Chairperson asked that if possible, the Department should give a breakdown when it responds so that the Committee can be clear on it spending pattern.
Ms Masiko stated that her concern is on the functionality of the sanitary dignity committee simply because that committee is tasked with bringing together all sister departments, which include the Department of Health and the Department of Economic Development, which is participating in the sanitary dignity committee; she asked if it is functional. The Committee will still have a big problem and find itself in situation whereby manufacturers are coming from many kilometres from the home province.
She also said that it makes her cringe that there are credible business women in Limpopo who have to hear that a service that they would be able to provide has been taken out of their province. This then means that money is not sitting in Limpopo but many kilometres away in the Western Cape province. She said that she is of the belief that it would not go down well with the people of Limpopo.
It further speaks to the delivery costs that Ms Sharif was speaking about. How much does it cost to deliver all those products to another province? She said that to her this speaks to the issue of coordination and functionality of the Committee which also brings together all sister Departments to provide that support.
It is worrisome that in as much as the Committee raises issues of manufacturing and the beneficiation of women, no province has come up with a plan. There is an element of monopolising the manufacturing of these products that benefit women or are consumed by women. The Committee needs to look closely into that and provinces must assist it and have a plan that will capacitate women and enable them to produce their own product.
Ms Masiko said that the next issue that the Committee really needs to look into is the issue of the allocated funds being used by the end of March, which does not explain why because schools are opening on the 15th of February. What will be happening before then? Is the projection for March because the funds for the financial year are already with the Department, which means that the planning must have already taken place so that when schools open, the products are already there for the learners.
The last issue she raised was regarding the disposal of the sanitary pads by burning, which speaks to the cultural belief of many African communities. She said that she was linking this issue with that of the plastic that the Chairperson had raised. As a way of disposing used sanitary pads, through the African belief, girls cannot go around throwing away their blood because there will be elements of people taking it to use it for other things. This then made her thing that the Committee needs to accommodate cultural beliefs that exist in relation to the disposal of sanitary pads. Ms Masiko said that the Committee actually forgot that some parents are really specific about how to dispose sanitary pads, which takes away the conventional method of disposing sanitary pads.
The Chairperson asked Dr Mhlongo and the HOD to provide clarity about whether the allocated funds have been depleted or not or if the province has done what Gauteng did and bought food parcels with the funds instead of buying sanitary pads.
Mr Mphithi thanked the Department for its presentation, adding that it was well received. He said that there is an element of relationship and communication that really needs to come from the Department’s side to province because the way in which the value chain and procurement is set up shows that there is a disconnection between the goals of what this programme is supposed to do and the vision, which is aligned to women and youth benefitting from the programme. It would be a huge injustice/indictment for the Committee to accept at this point that there has been no beneficiation for women in this particular programme, which was one of the intentions and objectives of the programme.
He further went on to say that this again highlights the need for the Department, particularly at National level, to be clear on what needs to take place because at this point in time if the Committee considers that one of the companies Lionmatch, which has four Asian males, it does not speak to what the programme intends to do. That is a broad takeaway that must be made.
In terms of distribution through transport across the province, Mr Mphithi said that he wanted to know how that materialised based on the fact that considering the 2019/20 financial year and the intended objectives of that particular year and what the outcome was. It shows that indeed there is a major problem in being able to roll out this particular programme across the province. What exactly are the challenges that province has experienced and what has been done to mitigate those particular challenges in the sense of reaching rural areas in the province, which have been left out because of the programme being delayed?
Further speaking on the delay, Mr Mphithi reckoned that the rolling out by March was fundamentally problematic because many learners would have gone back to school by then and there will be certain Grade eight learners who will be getting used to the school, that need that kind of stability and sustainability. Therefore, the commencement of the programme in March, when in fact the beginning of the academic year was delayed, which gave the province more time to roll out its plan and ensure that it is effective and on time to respond to the learners that need these products. He said that the province really needs to consider this as it cannot be acceptable that in Gauteng and other provinces there will be a full rollout of the packs but in Limpopo there would not. This is extremely concerning to the Committee.
He further expressed that this speaks to the oversight and how the value chain has been set up because it is quite clear that the Committee does not know if the delay on hand is because of the fact that the procurement is coming from Cape Town, which then in turns brings other time frame delays that are now impacting the learners. Such elements in the programme really need to be looked at by the Committee so that the Department can come and explain why learners in the province will experience a delay whereas in other provinces there would not be a delay.
Mr Mphithi asked for an explanation regarding the bid that was for three years. He asked if the awarding of the bid for three years was with the two companies or the Western Cape company because that in alone will have implications on whether learners will receive these packs on time.
The Chairperson asked Members if they could see the messages that she was putting on the group chat because she could not see their messages. Ms Sharif confirmed that she could.
Ms Mhlongo asked what plans the Department has to extend its reach in order to target more beneficiaries in the province.
Mr Ngcobo said that he wanted to check with the Limpopo province who is responsible for ensuring SABS compliance of the sanitary pads.
Ms Mgweba said that she was covered by other Members in terms of the questions she wanted to ask.
Ms Sonti directed to her comment to Dr Mhlongo and said that the Committee cannot keep repeating the same thing all the time. She expressed that the manufacturing of sanitary pads in Cape Town is not acceptable, because there are people who are capable in Limpopo.
The removal of grade five learners is also not acceptable because the girl learners in this grade must also get sanitary pads. She said that the learners getting three packets for three months is also not right as it would be better if the learners, especially the vulnerable and orphans, got three packets for one month. Ms Sonti said that if its eight or 10 in a packet then its fine and it must be three packets for one month because the girls do not have the same flow.
Even though her next question was not really for province but for the municipality, she said that she wanted to know what the role of the School Governing Body (SGB) was in the sanitary dignity pads in the schools as the parents were responsible for the children in the schools. If there is a role for them, what is it? If not, why?
Ms Sonti said that her last comment was directed to all provinces and not just Limpopo. When sanitary pads are being issued to the learners, it would be a good idea for them to be taught about menstruation in terms of what happens before or during their cycle because other learners starting their menstruation at an earlier stage, as early as age 10, do not know what is happening to them. This would be where the teachers and parents can teach the learners thoroughly and make them aware of what will happen if they do not do what is right, e.g. having unprotected sex. This exercise should not be for teachers only but also for parents at home.
The Chairperson said that DDG Tshabalala needed to provide clarity to the Committee about the process of drafting the framework for this programme. She wanted to know what the guidelines had stipulated that the sanitary dignity packs should have. The reason for this is that some provinces had spoken about packs that have everything in terms of hygiene, e.g.: toothbrushes, toothpaste, bath soap, body lotion, facecloths and sanitary pads. When distributing, the packs are also given to boy learners. In the girls pack over and above the toiletries provided for hygiene purposes they also include sanitary pads. She expressed that there must be uniformity because there is money coming from the National Department for the entire country for this specific project. She expressed that the Committee needs to know what exactly the ideal was in terms of this project, because the boy child must not be left out. She also said that the Committee also needs clarity about why some packs are distributed quarterly, because if they are distributed quarterly and there are 12 packets for the quarter then it means that it is enough except if the girls are overflowing then those girls should get 15.
The Chairperson said that the Committee needs to put a lot of work into this programme so that at the end of the day when it drafts a report and takes a resolution, it takes an informed resolution so that is why she is asking DDG Tshabalala to assist in that regard.
Ms Masondo asked how often the provincial sanitary dignity committee meets. How is the sanitary dignity implementation framework monitored? She made reference to master trainers that are going to train Life Orientation (LO) teachers on the comprehension of sexual education. Does this mean training has not yet been implemented in 2020/21; if this is the case when will this training occur?
Why was the awarded bid made for three years? The DWYPD indicated to the Committee in October 2020 that the target was 538 701 beneficiaries, but it was not reached. She then asked how is it that 192 929 beneficiaries were identified for 2020/21.
Responding to the Chairperson’s request for clarity, DDG Tshabalala explained that the initial pronouncement by the former President was that the Department develop a sanitary dignity framework and the idea was informed by, menarche which is the starting point of menstruation. This initial stage comes with its own challenges in relation to girl children particularly from vulnerable or disadvantaged communities. These girls end up using rags and anything else at their disposal. Absenteeism from school and other issue also start arise so this was the motivation behind mainly providing sanitary pads.
Ms Tshabalala pointed out that earlier she had indicated that some provinces had initiated this project long before the framework was even compiled or funding was issued by National Treasury out of their own volition. The provinces leading in this regard were Gauteng and KZN. The leadership of these provinces suggested that the focus should not only be on pads because they had money within the provinces. A proposal was made that the provinces go beyond the sanitary pad drive and consider other issues that Gauteng mentioned and even KZN. It is important for provinces to be diverse in their approach and go beyond just able bodied kids and consider children with albinism and their needs. This is how these other provinces were able to address the issue of lip balm, hats and all other things that can help children with albinism.
When National Treasury worked out the costing, the focus was mainly on sanitary pads because that is what has plagued the girl child and the costing was based on that premise. The Department did not have enough money and so National Treasury gave the Department whatever it could, based on the criteria mentioned earlier on.
If provinces want to prioritise and copy what they regard as the best practice model from other provinces, it would have to first prioritise the provision of sanitary pads because that is the basic issue or task at hand at this point in time. Ms Tshabalala said that the Department will take this issue up with National Treasury and will highlight this area of concern to it. She also shared with the Committee that the fiscus is strained as the Department is addressing issues of COVID-19 and all other areas of concern that keep arising.
Departments keep re-prioritising to address the other priorities. Ms Tshabalala said that she would not speak on other departments’ behalf, in terms of whether they will heed the call or not financially. The current finances are the cost drivers. The focus is on the sanitary pads and nothing else. To further boost the budget, Ms Tshabalala encouraged provinces to reach out to companies where they can and ask for support in this area of work as and when the need arises, until such time that government is fully recovered and is able to take of full financial responsibility.
The Chairperson expressed that she has been trying to figure out what advice the Committee would give to the different provinces, if it takes a resolution in terms of uniformity. She also applauded Ms Tshabalala for encouraging provinces to go out and raise extra funds, by approaching big companies, which also speaks to their social responsibility. Some companies do not contribute towards social responsibility so it this way they will be able to provide what other provinces have packaged in the sanitary dignity packs – for instance, if a Department or province wants to accommodate people living with albinism, sunscreen and other things that are important would be provided for in the pack. She thanked Ms Tshabalala for providing clarity and clearing any confusion that the Committee may have had.
The Chairperson then asked Dr Mhlongo and the Acting HOD to respond to all the questions that had been raised by Committee Members. She also encouraged that the CFO participate in the discussion so that she can respond to all finance-related questions if she is present.
Mr K Mashaba, DDG: Corporate Management, Limpopo Department of Education, explained that the responses by the Department will be broken down into two parts. The first part will be responses from Dr Mhlongo and the second part will be responses from the CFO, who will respond to the questions about financials if she is present.
Dr Mhlongo thanked the Committee for the robust discussion and questions that were put forward. He explained that some answers will be provided by the CFO, who will be able to give detailed explanations to all questions pertaining to finances.
Responding to the question of why the Department is waiting for March 2021, Dr Mhlongo apologised to the Committee for not emphasising that the award has just been made and that the appointment letter was dated 20 January 2021. The Friday prior to the meeting, the Department had a meeting with all service providers to finalise the Service Level Agreement (SLA). It is not that the Department had purposely chosen to delay the roll out; it was waiting got the processes that are part of the legal processes of making sure that the Department issues an order are finalised. In that way, the service providers can be held accountable for quick delivery.
The next question he responded to is the questions about what the role of the SGB is within the programme. Dr Mhlongo explained that all SGB’s are responsible for governance in schools. Their main interest is to check what resources are coming into the schools to support teaching and learning. He confirmed that the SGB’s will definitely be involved; even if they are not involved in the handing out of the sanitary pads, the Principal will present this particular programme to them. This is how they will get involved. At the SGB level when there are programmes such as these, all partners get involved. A call is made to unions and associations of governing bodies where a presentation is made of an upcoming programme so that everyone will be able to be on board and support the rolling out of the programme.
The SGBs will get involved because they have a vested interest to understand the girls on the list that the school will compile. In terms of the comment made by Ms Sharif, Dr Mhlongo clarified that every time he said ‘my girls’ he did not mean it in a possessive or ownership manner but asked for forgiveness for the misunderstanding. Being a teacher by profession, he said that maybe he was fighting for the girls more than he needed to and said that he will not do it again. He was just merely saying that the girl children in Limpopo are his responsibility.
Regarding distribution, as raised by Mr Mphithi he said that the challenge that the Department is faced with is that the bid has just been awarded. As such, the Department has not come across any distribution challenges. He did explain that there is a plan, which the CFO will elaborate on in terms of distribution and the steps that will be taken to achieve the objectives set out in the plan.
In terms of increasing its reach, the Department will go out and call upon other partners who can increase what has been done as and when the budget is provided. He confirmed that the Department does have partners in the province who, on a small scale, support the girl learners in this particular area. It is up to the Executive of the Department to make sure that it goes out to recruit and advocate for this programme and challenge the business area so that it can offer its support. That will help the Department increase its reach.
On the issue of manufacturing, Dr Mhlongo indicated that the CFO will elaborate on who is responsible for ensuring SABS compliance and the costs per unit.
Dr Mhlongo re-emphasised that in Limpopo, the Department has a pack with 12 pads and a pack with 15 pads. Responding to Ms Sonti’s request to provide three packs a month, he said that it will be very expensive. He asked the Committee to allow the Department to roll out the programme and thereafter it will come back and share feedback on the advice given.
In response to Ms Masondo’s question, Dr Mhlongo confirmed that the comprehensive sexual education component is being managed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE). It is the DBE that will be responsible for the rolling out of the comprehensive sexual education, which is already within the LO subject. What has been identified as a limitation was the fact that it was dealt with on a small scale.
Dr Mhlongo said that the Department will share with Neliswa the website details of where the Committee can get materials about comprehensive sexual education from and in that was they Committee will be able to see what the Department is doing and how it is approaching the whole transaction.
In terms of the request made for grade five, the Department has heard the Committee loud and clear and there is no turning back at this point. The rest of the questions will be dealt with by the CFO in terms of spending and how much the Department is paying per pack.
Responding to Ms Sharif about the plans that the Department has in place to reach its target, Dr Mhlongo acknowledged that the question is important because the Department cannot start providing sanitary pads to the girl learners for three months then stop. As long as there is still a budget it means that the Department should continue to provide that particular service. What is going to be clear probably within five to 10 days after the opening of schools is that after receiving the names of girl learners the Department will be able to see immediately the extent to which it will reach all of them. He confirmed that this is the kind of information going forward it will share with the Committee.
The presentation showed that there are many grade seven girl learners. However what should be noted is that not all 63 000 of them will be provided with sanitary pads because some learners come from families that are able to afford.
The evaluation will be done in collaboration with the NECT. This is an entity that belongs to the DBE. The Department will not pay anything and there will be ongoing evaluation being done by it. The Department would love it if the NECT came in at different intervals, to check if what is going on speaks to the log frame for monitoring and evaluation (M&E).
When Dr Mhlongo tried to call on the CFO to continue responding to questions, it appeared that she had been disconnected. As a result Dr Mhlongo attempted to answer some questions that had been reserved for her to answer.
With regards to the pricing for a pack of 12 for one year the price if R14.49 and for the price of 15 it is R16 odd. Dr Mhlongo explained that this was a figure off the top of his head. Pricing had been provided for year one, two and three which is information that can be shared with the Committee.
Responding to the questions about appointing a company from Cape Town and not involving the locals, Dr Mhlongo explained that if the CFO was present she would share the plans in place moving forward, particularly in the area of distribution. In terms of the Department plan, the CFO will convene a meeting soon with the locally sub-contracted entity just to make sure that when it comes to distribution and packaging in the province, all the sectors that have been repeatedly mentioned become beneficiaries. In other words the 30% portion that is supposed to remain in the province is not just meant for that particular sub-contracted company but is also supposed to be distributed for those within the province. For example, if distribution is supposed to happen in a certain district, the distributor cannot have transport moving from Polokwane and go distribute all the sanitary pads in the Vhembe District. The locals in Vhembe would have to be involved in the distribution of the sanitary pads. The best way would be for the sanitary pads to be taken from the Polokwane warehouse to the warehouse in Vhembe district, then from there it goes to schools and in that way the locals will be involved and there would be a sharing of the 30% portion.
Dr Mhlongo told the Committee that there are no spending transactions for now because the Department is just beginning with its programme. An order can come out at anytime and if the CFO was present in the meeting she would have said exactly when. As soon as the order goes out, the Department will commit the entire R32.7 million because it would love to get the sanitary pads. That speaks to the budget within the current financial year. In conclusion, he said that those are the questions that he is able to attempt to answer and the other questions specifically need the attention of the CFO. He confirmed that the Department will make sure that the questions reach her through the HOD so that a write up can find its way to the Committee.
The Chairperson reminded Dr Mhlongo to furnish the Committee with a report of which company got what and where. She asked that details about the whole tender process be outlined in the report, who got warded and who sub-contracted, etc. She also asked if women, youth and people with disabilities are included. This is information that the Committee needs to have. The report can be sent to Neliswa.
The Committee has taken the decision to call on provinces at anytime. It will decide on whether to make the call quarterly or bi-annually to report on how far they are with the programme. The Committee will also do oversight at the manufacturing and distribution sites.
The Chairperson thanked Dr Mhlongo and the HOD for their contribution.
Ms Sonti said that she had a concern because she had asked a question about the role and responsibility of the SGB’s in the sanitary dignity programme, but had not received an answer.
Mr Mahlangu responded to say that perhaps Ms Sonti had missed it when Dr Mhlongo gave an explanation in response to this question but he repeated the response and said that the SGB’s will be informed of what will be distributed in the schools. He confirmed that the SGB will be part of the monitoring and evaluation that is happening in their schools.
Dr Mhlongo reiterated that the SGB is a key role player in making sure that learners are not left out. The Principal will give the SGB the names of learners that have been identified as vulnerable. Then SGB will then be able to identify which learners belong on the list and which do not.
The Chairperson then explained to the Committee that the person who will be leading the presentation from the Eastern Cape (EC) needed to attend another meeting and it is for this reason that she would be calling the EC to give its presentation.
Eastern Cape Sanitary Programme
Opening Remarks by the Chief Director
Mr Wandile Ncapai, Chief Director: Development Social Welfare Services, Eastern Cape Department Social Development, led the presentation on behalf of the MEC. He greeted the Chairperson and thanked the Committee for the opportunity to reflect on the progress made by the Department in providing safe sanitary products. He extended an apology on behalf of MEC Siphokazi Lusithi.
He went on to say that in the EC the sanitary dignity drive is an MEC priority programme, which is also receiving full attention politically. He also indicated that the EC has hope in the efforts of the leadership. Specifically, the oversight function played by the Portfolio Committee to guide and assist Departments, by ensuring that necessary scrutiny and measures are put in place that are meant to mitigate the severity of the social ills and challenges that are confronting communities exerting undue pressure particularly for those who are vulnerable.
Mr Ncapai explained that the Department has a range of vulnerable groups that it is providing support, care and protection through the child and youth care centres, the victim empowerment centres and through social relief programmes, which are a main priority. When people reflect and realise that they need support, whether in the form of food parcels, when an assessment has been done and social workers detect whether items of this nature are necessary, the support is then provided. Even in the budget provided to the centres it has always been a situation where they are taken care of through this programme.
It is the first time that the Department is going all out for schools as requested by the National Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. However the focus for the Department was that because the specifics were for sanitary pads and not any other thing the focus was on that.
Projected plan: 01-19 February 2021
Mr Ncapai explained that branding and construction requirements will be adhered to. What the Department has requested be done in terms of these requirements will be that the words ‘not for sale’ be reflected on the product as part of the branding and that the logo of the Department also be reflected so that it is seen that the item cannot be sold because it is a Government item that is made freely available. The products must also have been tested by an accredited SABS laboratory for compliance with the South African National Standard (SANS) 103 2010 third edition. That is a specification that is part of the SABS standard.
Projected plan 26 February – 12 March 2021
The immediate processing of invoices for payment by the Department of Social Development (DSD) will ensure that all monies meant for this financial year are spent in this financial year.
Value Chain Outline
The beneficiary girl learners will receive the sanitary dignity products as a once off delivery. The girls will receive the pads once off. However, even though it is once-off, the products will cover the girls for a period long enough for them to be able to utilise the product for the whole year.
The Chairperson interjected to ask why the number of girl learner beneficiaries was so low.
Mr Ncapai responded to say that the number was determined by the amount of money given to the province.
The Chairperson went on to say that when considering the EC population between the districts and rural areas, it does not make logical sense that the number of targeted girl learners would be so low.
Mr Ncapai agreed with the Chairperson and said that she was absolutely correct in her observation. However, because of the budget available there was nothing that the province could do and unfortunately this is just a drop in the ocean.
Continuing with the presentation, Mr Ncapai said that the strategy to distribute the sanitary products once off is that there will be one box per learner and that box will contain 12 packs and in each pack there will be 16 pads providing each girl learner with 192 pads over a period of 12 months. The thinking behind this is that the 16 pads will last the girl learner for the whole month and this will ensure that the learner utilises the sanitary products for a full year. This theory has been tested and advised by experts.
The manner in which the box is packaged means that the girls will be able to take the pack home and use it in the way that is best for them. The service providers are procuring and delivering to the schools. The total number of schools is 850, giving a total of 54 577 learners, including special schools.
Mr Ncapai explained that for the purposes of Portfolio of Evidence (PE), each learner will sign on receipt of these packs because it is an easy carry home pack and they will be able to take the sanitary products home and use them as and when necessary.
There is a noticeable bias on the rural districts, in the main being OR Tambo with 14 000, Alfred Nzo on 11 000 and Amathole 8 000. Other districts are less because these are large districts with a high number of children.
Another important point Mr Ncapai made is that he can easily mention the focus points of these service providers and the amounts should the Committee need them. He said that he deliberately did not put this information in the report but if the Committee wants them to be given they can be given or read out quickly.
Mr Ncapai explained that the observations made are that the estimate values made by the Department when putting out the tender were higher than the reality, due to the Department basing the estimates on the market. However, the service providers that quoted the Department advised that it should secure some savings of R10.9 million. As a result of the savings, the Department can reach more girl learners. There will also be a code system that will be used as developed by the Department.
In conclusion of his presentation, Mr Ncapai said that he has the list of service providers that have already been awarded the tender – the names, amounts and the number of allocated learners per district and service provider.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Ncapai for his presentation and noted the MEC’s apology. When the Committee looks at how the Department has allocated its targets in terms of the numbers, it gives an indication that the EC is in trouble. Can the Department not raise funds from other big businesses in the province as part of their contribution to social responsibility? What is the Department doing knowing that the situation is desperate in the province?
She expressed that sometimes she asks herself who will get help from the programme and who would not be, based on the numbers, especially in the rural areas. If there is no money, what is it that the Department can do?
The Chairperson invited Members to give their input on the presentation.
Ms Mgweba welcomed the presentation. She said that from the presentation she had picked up that the EC had indicated that there are eight districts in the province, including two metros. How many girl learners have benefitted from this programme since April 2020 in the province? The manner in which the EC is set up, it is mainly made up of rural areas that are the former Transkei and Ciskei, which are rural areas. Therefore, if the presentation is not clear on the beneficiaries, in terms of how many girls have benefitted in the province from 2020 to 2021. Can the Department present to the Committee how many learner girls have benefitted?
Ms Mgweba also picked up that in the value chain the amount of R10.9 million is less than the estimated costs; as such, the amount is now available as savings. Can the Department explain why that is?
The Chairperson added onto what Ms Mgweba had said about the R10.9 million, sharing the same sentiments that she also did not understand the issue surrounding that money and asked the Department to provide clarity. She said that when some things are presented, it leads the Committee to scrutinise every detail. For example, the service providers have charged less than the cost price. Is the service provider a manufacturer? If an item is R40 and is charged at R30, how is the difference of R10 going to be recovered? She asked that the Department give a detailed explanation when responding to this question.
Ms Sonti said that the situation in the EC breaks her heart, especially because she grew up there. It is difficult to access services on the province more especially in the rural areas. There are children staying far away and they sometimes cannot even go to school because of the rivers being full and there are no bridges or anything. The question is then, who will benefit from the sanitary dignity programme? Who will get these sanitary pads? It is especially concerning when thinking about the girls in rural areas, because there is nothing easy about accessing services in that part of the province. She expressed that she is worried because the EC there are children who do not finish school and drop out because of poverty.
Ms Masiko asked about the sourcing of data from learners. What challenges is the province experiencing in this regard?
Secondly, in terms of spending the 2019/20 financial year budget that was allocated for the sanitary dignity campaign, she pointed out that it was not used specifically because the matter was halted by service providers. She requested that the EC take the Committee in confidence and tell it why the service providers were up in arms and halted the process. Also may the Department also explain where the process is currently in relation to the non-spending of the 2019/20 budget and how the province has responded to that issue.
Responding to the question from Ms Mgweba about the number of beneficiaries per district, Mr Ncapai gave the details as follows:
- Alfred Nzo District: 11 352 girl learners
- Amathole District: 8 402 girl learners
- Buffalo City District: 4 205 girl learners
- Chris Hani District including Lubisi Dam: 6 519 girl learners
- Nelson Mandela Metropolitan: 3 664 girl learners
- Joe Gqabi District: 4 702 girl learners
- OR Tambo District, which is the largest district: 14 106 girl learners
- Sarah Baartman, which is the last district: 1 546 girl learners.
All girl learners will receive the sanitary dignity packs between 15 and 19 February 2021. By 19 February, all of them would have received their packs.
The total number of schools in quintile one, two and three, including special schools, is 850 where the girls are located in the province. The breakdown of the schools is as follows, including special schools:
- Joe Gqabi: 46 schools
- OR Tambo: 164 schools
- Sarah Baartman: 43 schools
- Nelson Mandela Metro: 72 schools
- Buffalo City Metro: 106 schools
- Amathole District: 169 schools
- Chris Hani: 136 schools
- Alfred Nzo: 114 schools
With regards to the question about the R10.9 million, raised by Ms Mgweba and the Chairperson, Mr Ncapai explained that there was an allocation of R36 million for the EC. Of that amount of money, the six service providers that had been awarded, estimated that the cost would be R56 per pack but instead was quoted at R40 a pack, which then resulted in a saving of quoted less than what the Department had estimated. They quoted R40 for each pack with 16 pads inside each pack meant to last a month. All that resulted in a saving of R10.9 million.
He explained that this amount is being re-invested back into the sanitary dignity programme, hence the Department has made a motivation for approval through the HOD to utilise a quotes procurement system. This money is sub-divided to all eight districts in the EC for them to request quotes, which will take a 48 tender quote system.
This will increase the number of learners in the EC who will benefit from the programme because of the saving secured through the service providers.
Another question that was raised by Members was about the service providers being manufacturers. Mr Ncapai confirmed that the service providers are not manufacturers but strictly service providers.
The names of the service providers, per district are as follows:
- Buffalo City Municipality the service provider is Krystal Klear Vision, which is women-owned. However in this district the service provider partnered with a male.
- Joe Gqabi Municipality the service provider is also Krystal Klear Vision.
- Chris Hani Municipality the service provider is Amabritani (sp?) Consulting, which is also women-owned by the local women of the EC.
- Nelson Mandela Metro the service provider is Lindiwe Sanitary, which is a women-owned local service provider.
- Amathole District the service provider is Wiskhosa (sp?), which is youth-owned and locally-based.
- Sarah Baartman district was unable to secure a service provider and so it went back to the code system.
- OR Tambo because the volumes are high in this district, it has gone back to Treasury for review so no new tender has been awarded there.
Responding to Ms Sonti, who wanted to know who was going to benefit from this programme i.e. how were the beneficiaries going to be selected, Mr Ncapai explained that what has happened is that the Department has identified learners that are based in quintile one, two and three schools as well as special schools. These are learners that would ordinarily come from very poor and disadvantaged areas. The Department interacted with and is partnering with the Department of Education, which is providing assistance with regards to the learners that could benefit from the programme. In these schools, that is how the learners have been selected.
In terms of the challenges that the Department has experienced when sourcing out the learner data in schools, he said that unfortunately the EC was seriously hit by the resurgence when it started embarking on sourcing data. There were a number of schools that were affected and most learners had to be quarantined, and that disturbed the process of identification and selection for some time. The Department of Education, together with the Department of Social Development, could not conclude the process of selection and identification in good time because schools were severely affected. Social workers came in to provide psycho social support services as well as the Department of Health to conduct some testing. That contributed in a great way to the challenges of conclusively sourcing the data of girl learners.
In order to respond to the question on why the service providers were up in arms, Mr Ncapai gave some background on what led to the interdict on the programme since the 2019/20 financial year. During the 2019/20 financial year the Department advertised a limited bid that was targeting manufacturers only. The Department learnt a lot from that situation. One of the applicants that tendered for the bid contested the decision after she realised that she had been eliminated based on the fact that it was not a manufacturer but a distributor. The contender started contesting the decision and went to court. Its argument was that the limited bidding was not constitutional and it had been unfairly discriminated. The court granted an interim interdict against the service provider that was awarded by the Department of Social Development.
When the interdict was awarded, the court ordered the successful service provider to stop distribution of the sanitary dignity packs to the girl learners in the province immediately. Opportunity was granted by the court for all the partners, the Department, the successful service provider plus the contester to file papers for the litigation process. The Department opposed that in terms of the contest by the losing service provider and filed the papers in support of the fact that it did work accordingly.
Unfortunately, the successful service provider during the 2019/20 financial year changed attorneys and that process delayed. However, the service provider has filed its supporting papers in order to defend its case. Now the Department is waiting the decision of the court to indicate whether the process it followed was lawful or unlawful in terms of the tender processes that were followed.
Mr Ncapai explained that the key issue here was that going forward the bidding must only target manufacturers. The applicant that is contesting that has said that it was unconstitutional because the decision discriminated against it. The Department is still awaiting the decision of the court.
Ms Hlengwa said that she had one concern, which left her dissatisfied. In the presentation there was mention of once-off delivery and she was not convinced. She was not happy that it was only Grade 11 and 12 girl learners that were beneficiaries of this programme, whereas there are primary schools where there is intermediate phase with girl learners from Grade five to seven who also use sanitary pads. In other provinces these Grades are included in the sanitary dignity programme and it is for this reason that she is not satisfied with the Grades that are part of this programme in the EC. The whole province accommodates grade 11 and 12 learners. What about those in grades five to ten?
The Chairperson said that what did not come out clearly is whether the Department is able to make big businesses contribute towards social responsibility, so that funds that the Department has can be complemented and other children that are in need of these sanitary dignity packs can be covered. She suggested that maybe the Committee can speak to DDG Tshabalala and find out from her how the Department can be assisted, because it is assumed that funds are allocated by National Treasury.
Responding to Ms Hlengwa about the once off delivery, Mr Ncapai said that the reason for selecting grade 11 and 12 learners was based on the budget limitation. The province had to assess where the small amount of money could be invested. He said that the Department considered the pressure that the girl learners’ experience, especially when they get to grade 11 compared to the boy child because there is pressure for the grade 12 pass rate, especially in the EC.
The Department felt that there was a double barren situation for the learners than any other girl learner. When these girls reach that stage, they are already panicking because there is the fear of the unknown. They are worried about their career at that time. There is a natural issue at that stage that they cannot assist themselves, which adds pressure and the academic performance is affected. Therefore, the priority was that the little amount of money that the Department had been allocated by both the National and Local Department be used for these learners. The Department had no choice when it was debating this with the Department of Education. It realised that it had no choice but to focus on these girls that are in grade 11 and 12.
The once-off delivery has been decided on so that service providers do not keep coming back and forth to distribute the sanitary dignity packs to the girl learners. The packs will be distributed once-off and used for the whole year. There are 12 packs and each pack is to be utilised for one month by the girl child. In each pack there are 16 pads. This is more than enough to cater for the girl child for a month so that she is able to go through that period comfortably. All these will be given to each girl learner in one go so and each girl learner will get carry home packs with pads for one year. The total will be 192 pads for the whole year.
The Department has gone out and has managed to secure some donors before the programme was rolled out. During the public service month, the Department went all out with the MEC and Old Mutual, which was assisting with sanitary pads. These were given out to children in areas where they were visiting. Metropolitan also provided some assistance. All this happened when schools were closed due to COVID-19. The United Nations (UN) fund for population activities is one organisation that periodically provides assistance, but it is not enough. Given the situation in the EC, it is unlike the Western Cape and Gauteng, where there is a majority of big businesses in the surrounding area. However, these organisations continue to be of support to the Department through the efforts of the MEC. Many Members of Parliament (MPs) in National Parliament, who originate from the EC, are lobbying on the Departments behalf. This also happened during the time of distributing food parcels during COVID. These are some of the contributions made.
However, the challenge is that there is a serious problem in the EC, given that the majority of the girl learners come from low income households. This is what the assessment has shown. It is a very pathetic situation and not an easy one to look at. When the learners’ homes were visited during assessments, it was easy to identify that there were bigger problems over and above providing the sanitary dignity packs. There are other basic household needs like food that, are not there. The Department is facing a very challenging situation in the province.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Ncapai and told Members that the EC had concluded its presentation. She said that as the Portfolio Committee, it would look at the issues raised, understanding the vastness of the province. She said that the Committee will make sure that it identifies the Province for an oversight visit, so that it can also interact with the girl learners because information that is evidence based is much better.
Mr Ncapai asked if there was anything that the Committee needed in writing as a follow up to the presentation.
The Chairperson said that it was not necessary to send anything in writing because the information that was missing in the presentation, giving particular detail about beneficiaries, service providers and schools, etc. had been read out for Members in the meeting. She confirmed with Ms Mgweba if this was alright, seeing that the Member that requested detail and Ms Mgweba confirmed that there was no need because she had recorded down everything that had been read out.
Mpumalanga Sanitary Programme
Opening Remarks by the Chief Financial Officer
Ms Belinah Mojapelo, CFO, Mpumalanga Department of Social Development, led the presentation. She told the Committee that the MEC and HOD had been present earlier on in the meeting but had to leave due to other commitments. As a result, she had been delegated with standing in for the province.
The Chairperson asked the CFO to explain what other commitments the MEC and HOD had.
Ms Mojapelo explained that the HOD had another meeting to attend and that he had indicated that he forwarded his apology to the Chairperson and the MEC had to go to the doctor due to ill health.
Ms Mojapelo explained to the Committee that the number of beneficiaries referred to in the presentation is actually the number of schools.
The Chairperson interjected to ask about the number of beneficiaries. She asked if the number of beneficiaries is for learners.
Ms Mojapelo confirmed that it for the number of schools and that slide 18 provides details of the number of learners per district.
While presenting on slide 19, the Chairperson interjected and asked Ms Mojapelo to explain the amount allocated to the province.
Ms Mojapelo explained that all provinces were allocated R157 million by National Treasury and of that amount, Mpumalanga (MP) received R15.984 million.
Making reference to the last bullet on slide 28, the Chairperson asked Ms Mojapelo to explain who monitors the disposal of sanitary pads.
Ms Mojapelo indicated that it was being monitored by the Department.
The Chairperson asked what the role of the municipality was and if there was any working relationship.
Ms Mojapelo said that she would request the Programme Manager, Ms Cecilia Mazibuko, to respond to the question and give details on the role the municipalities are playing.
Referring to slide 28, the Chairperson asked when the audit was done by the Auditor-General (AG) to determine the amount of R134 890 fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
Ms Mojapelo explained that the audit report was received by the Department in mid-November 2020, hence the process of the determination test has not been finalised as yet. After the determination the Department will have to proceed and take the necessary action.
Ms Hlongo said that she did not want to go back to the questions of who supplies the sanitary towels because everyone understands that this programme must empower women, especially those in townships and rural areas. She asked if the distribution of sanitary towels is done in the same way at boarding schools and in day schools. Who is responsible for the distribution of sanitary towels to the learners at schools?
The Department mentioned that the beneficiaries are girl learners in grades eight to 12. Are learners in grades five to seven also considered in the programme, because the slides only spoke of girl learners from grade eight?
The Chairperson said that when she considered the budget allocation of the Department it was R15 million. Based on the budget allocated to the province for this project, it was only able to prioritise grades eight to 12. Considering that, the allocation is not enough. She says that she compared what MP had to the EC and was able to draw the conclusion that with the little that MP was given, it managed to assist many learners. However, the Department will respond for itself.
Ms Mojapelo said that the Department could only focus on grades eight to 12 due to the budget constraints that it was under. The Department has indicated that in the 2019/20 financial year, it was able to reach 176 178 girl learners, as indicated on slide 21. In the 2018/19 financial year, it was able to reach 69 443 girl learners, as per slide 18. She reiterated that the Department has serious budget constraints and that is why it was unable to accommodate girl learners in grades five to seven.
On the issue of the distribution of sanitary pads in boarding and day schools, she said that she would ask Ms Mazibuko to assist by responding to the question.
Ms Hlengwa said that she sought clarity in terms of distribution. She said that the Department spoke about some pads being given to the municipality so that it could distribute and oNdlunkulu to do the same thing. However, in her opinion, the municipalities are supposed to assist the Department by donating to the schools and even oNdlunkulu. She asked that clarity also be provided on that.
The Chairperson told Ms Hlengwa that Ms Mazibuko would respond to the questions raise around the municipality, but went on to also add that she would like to know how the Department will mitigate the challenges raised that are the responsibility of the municipalities in terms of sanitation, water and disposal.
Ms Sharif congratulated the Mpumalanga province for the fact that it has been rolling out the programme since the 2018/19 financial year. Out of all the provinces it is the only one that has gone that far back in terms of years. She went on to say that R18 for a pack of ten pads, so far is the highest any province is paying per unit, which calculates to an average of R1.86 per unit. That is an increase of 85c per unit in comparison to all the other provinces. Why is MP paying so much for sanitary towels per unit in comparison to other provinces, noting that MP has severe budget constraints?
The province listed 37 bidders in the 2018/19 financial year. She asked how many of these listed bidders actually offer supply services. How many does the Department use to procure sanitary towels and what is the price difference, because R1.80 is too much money and it needs to be re looked at?
In the 2018/19 financial year, the Department received about R18 million and only focused on quintile one and two boarding schools, which was the decision made by the Executive Committee. What were the reasons other than budget constraints?
Ms Sharif asked why the sanitary pads were given to politicians. How was the distribution monitored? How many beneficiaries were reached and can the Department prove that the beneficiaries were really reached? What was the time period given?
Out of the R18 million allocated, there was an amount of R10.5 million that was reprioritised. Where did that money go and what was it reprioritised for? What was so important that sanitary pads had to take a back seat?
During the 2019/20 financial year, students were given a two months supply, which amounted to four packs per learners. Ms Sharif expressed that logic dictates that a one month supply is two packs per learner, which is a total of 20 packs per month. She asked for clarity in this regard because she was not sure that there was correct understanding.
In the 2019/20 financial year, the target was 176 178 learners and in the 2020/21 financial year it was 180 900 learners. There is a very little increase in the target and she asked that the Department explain why the target is so little.
The current costing target is R19.3 million. So noting that the financial year is almost over, Ms Sharif asked to date how many girls have been reached and what has the cost of procurement been as well as the operational costs.
If the province has spent R9.6 million, where is the remaining R9.6 million because it appears to be missing.
Ms Mgweba said that in terms of the allocation of the budget for the 2018/19 financial year, the presentation detailed that there was an allocation of R18 million and R7.5 million was spent. What happened to the money that was not spent? In the presentation for the 2019/20 financial year the province received R15.984 million and in 2020/21 there was an allocation of R19.308 million. While there is an allocation every year, what happened to the amount that was spent in 2018 and 2019?
The Chairperson said that it would be better for the CFO to explain the financials.
Responding to Ms Sharif’s question about what happened to the unspent amounts of money, Ms Mojapelo explained that the Department did not get a rollover of that spending from Provincial Treasury, so that money went back to Provincial Treasury.
In terms of the balance of the budget, she responded that the amount of R19.3 million that was allocated, less the R9.6 million that had been spent to date, meant that there is a balance remaining. She confirmed that the Department intended to spend this amount that was left over before the end of the financial year. In fact the procurement process has already started in relation to that. The Department will make sure that it does not lose that part of the budget to Provincial Treasury.
In relation to the funding that was reprioritised, Ms Mojapelo explained that the funding was reprioritised by Provincial Treasury to other Departments. In MP, the main focus was on the pressures that were presented by the Department of Health and the Department of Education. Those are the two Departments that benefitted from the reprioritisation of funding.
Regarding the service providers, as explained most of them buy the stock and what makes the price so high is that they have to factor in the costs of transportation and for those that are in rural areas they do not have access to wholesalers. This then means that they buy the merchandise from normal supermarkets and then they supply them. That is the reason why on average the prices are higher as compared to other Provinces.
Ms Mojapelo then asked Ms Mazibuko to continue on by answering the other questions that had been raised by Members.
The Chairperson asked Ms Sharif if her question had been answered.
Ms Sharif confirmed that it was but that she had a follow-up question to ask. She asked why the province uses middlemen and incurs costs instead of buying directly from wholesalers as a Department. She said that it sounds like the extra costs are incurred because the Department has to pay a middle man to be able to get the product in order to distribute it, whereas other provinces get it directly from wholesalers.
Ms Mazibuko took the opportunity to first respond to the question about the role of municipalities. She confirmed that the Department is working with the Department of Education on this programme so it taps into its infrastructure programme. The Department of Education has a plan on supporting schools in ensuring that there is infrastructure for it to dispose. This matter is also discussed at the Provincial Gender Machinery (PGM), where representatives of the municipalities sit. She said that she knows that across the province the Department has not moved that much to ensure that there is proper disposal. There is still one area where the Department has not moved but it is hoping that the municipalities, including the Department of Education and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, would be able to support it.
Responding to the question from Ms Hlongo about the distribution being the same in boarding and day schools, Ms Mazibuko confirmed that the distribution is the same, as it was indicated in the presentation. The service providers deliver directly to the schools.
Responding to Ms Sharif she said that the Departments target is informed by the data that it gets from the Department of Education in terms of enrolment. Information that the Department of Education would give them would be based on the enrolment of girl learners.
Ms Mazibuko said that the Department would have wished to include the lower grades in the programme but based on the allocated budget and number of learners, the Department is unable to reach out to the lower grades. As it had already indicated in the presentation, Ms Mazibuko reiterated that the Department works with other stakeholders namely the Footprint and Imbumba Foundations. The agreement it has in place with these two foundations is that where the Imbumba Foundations reaches out, the Department would not provide a service to that school. This is perhaps why the Departments reach is broader that the other provinces because it is able to collaborate with other stakeholders including Engen, although some of the support is not consistent.
Speaking on the question about distribution to municipalities and oNdlunkulu, Ms Mazibuko indicated that this was a once-off occurrence and at the time when this happened the Department was launching the project. At that time, the Project was funded by Provincial Treasury. It only happened once that the politicians were involved and the MECs and Mayors were able to give feedback, which included the list of beneficiaries that they had distributed the sanitary towels to.
Speaking on the costs, she agreed that it was quite expensive but what the Department forgot to indicate during the presentation is that it provides two packets per month, which means that all in all each learner will get six packets at one go. These are given in reusable bags so the cost of R18 is an all inclusive amount. It is sanitary towels inside a reusable bag because it is the Department’s view that these girl learners come from poor households. Therefore, these bags will then be used for other purposes – either as a travelling bag or something else. So the specification that is also part of the contract is that it must be a reusable bag and must include a pamphlet and delivery. Ms Mazibuko confirmed that the R18 is all inclusive and nothing extra is paid. Service providers feel it is quite steep because they are not making any profit because that is what the Department is paying across the board.
In relation to the M&E process, she said that as part of the programme, after the service provider has delivered and brought back the delivery note, the Department goes back to the schools to make sure that what the service provider has given out is actually what was delivered on site and it gets the registers of the learners that were provided with the sanitary towels. The procedure is that learners will sign the register as confirmation that they received the sanitary towels and the quantities that they received. This is why the Department simultaneously looks at other infrastructure support that the schools have.
Ms Masiko raised her hand and said that she had a minor question. She said that she took particular interest in the issue raised by province that it had not yet established the Provincial Sanitary Dignity Committee. She also noted that the Department has said that the reporting is done directly at the PGM. The Committee had received in the past numerous reports from provinces that in most of the PGM is not functional. She said that she would like to know if the PGM in MP is fully functional to receive the full report and act on any concerns that are experienced with regards to the implementation of the sanitary dignity campaign.
The Chairperson asked why the Portfolio Committee is not receiving a full report.
Ms Masiko responded by saying that her concern in terms of full monitoring is that the Department is the one that secures procurement. At what level does it sit with the directly affected departments, which are the Department of Education and the Premier’s Office, to establish a full monitoring of the programme? If the reporting is done through a structure which is the PGM, which in most provinces is a structure in distress, it is concerning.
Ms Mazibuko responded to Ms Masiko saying that fortunately for MP the PGM is vibrant and is coordinated by the office of the Premier where all other stakeholders participate. Currently, it is a structure that is active in terms of taking a key interest in the programme.
Answering the question about why the Portfolio Committee does not get a full report, she said that perhaps it is the way in which the province is structured, because the Department has not received an opportunity to give a presentation. She indicated that the sanitary committee is coordinated by the Office of the Premier and a colleague in that Office has made attempts to establish it and the DWYPD has been on its back to follow up on how far the Office is.
The Chairperson said that the Committee is giving the Department a month to establish the committee.
Ms Mazibuko said that the Department is working with the programme ‘Life Skills’ in the Department of Education, including the Department of Health. The pamphlet that the Department has designed to be included in the reusable bag was designed with the help of schools, in consultation with the Department of Education.
Ms Sharif said that her questions about why politicians were given sanitary towels to distribute were not answered.
Ms Mazibuko reiterated that it was a once-off occurrence, as part of the launch and the politicians involved were able to report back and it never continued.
The Chairperson thanked the Mpumalanga province for its presentation and the CFO and Project Manager for availing themselves and being able to answer all the robust questions put before them. Addressing Ms Masiko she said that she knows that there was a Gender Coordinator in the Office of the Premier, if she was not mistaken, and that MP is one province that is consistent in terms of gender responsibility in the Office of the Premier. She said that the Committee will one day invite the person dealing with these issues to come and give a presentation. She said that she hoped that MP had picked up on some good lessons that it would implements in its own province going forward. Issues raised by Members must be taken very seriously because the Committee will be making follow ups and it will ensure that biannually the Department comes before it to report on this very programme. This is because the Committee has seen that in terms of accountability there is a gap.
She also emphasised that there are three provinces that were not present in the meeting and the Committee Secretary confirmed that of all three, North West that said it was not aware of the meeting and did not know who is dealing with this responsibility; Free State and KwaZulu-Natal had sent apologies to say that they were unable to present. She went on to read the apologies out loud for Members.
After the apologies were read, Ms Sharif expressed that it was embarrassing that KwaZulu-Natal had stated in its apology that it was unaware of the programme and therefore needed time to prepare. It was also unacceptable that the Office of the Premier in the Free State did not know which Department was leading the programme.
Mr Mphithi said that for the provinces that gave an apology versus the provinces that are unaware of what is happening and what is being requested of them, he believes that as a Committee when it calls provinces to present on work that it is designated to provide or give oversight over it is required to be accountable because that is what the Committee is there to do: ensure accountability.
The Committee must write a very strong worded letter to those provinces asking for reasons as to why they had not presented themselves for the meeting. For a province like KwaZulu-Natal to say that it would be present and thereafter fail to be present, it is a huge indictment on not only the DWYPD but also on the Committee as well and the people of South Africa. As a Committee he said that there needs to be a very strong worded letter that goes out, because if it was another Committee and a province has not availed itself to account, it would not be tolerated and would be something regarded as a breach of the work that Members are supposed to do as Members of Parliament.
The Chairperson told Members that a date will be checked for so that the three absent provinces can be scheduled to come and present to the Committee on the programme. A letter will be written and sent to the Premiers of the provinces and the MECs responsible for this project and they will be provided with the new date for presentation. She said that there is no way that provinces can be allocated money and when they are called to account they do not avail themselves. The provinces have a responsibility to account for public Funds. Public Funds are accounted for by the people who have been assigned with that responsibility and those people must come and account. Before the Committee can conclude its report it must call all provinces to account.
Ms Masiko reflected on all the reports received from provinces and said that it is her hope that the Committee together with the DWYPD would reach some level of uniformity in relation to the programme throughout the provinces because there are a number of noticeable differences in the way that the programme is implemented.
As a Committee, it must pay particular attention to the benefits that are derived by the programme that are not reaching the most vulnerable, which are Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. None of the provinces reported any form of assistance given to women cooperatives to benefit from the entire value chain. The Department would need to work vigorously and ensure that there is some sort of formal partnership from a national level to the provinces with sister departments like the Department of Economic Development, the DTIC and the NYDA in providing the necessary support needed by women to benefit.
Ms Sharif said that the rollout of sanitary dignity pads is a need and is very important. However, her stance remains that sanitary pads need to be made available for free in this country. Every single women and girl child does not ask to bleed and they do not have any other option. She congratulated the departments on the work that they have been doing because it is important work. The dignity of the girl child in this country means everything and needs to be prioritised. She said that she hopes that when the provinces come before the Committee again to give a report, it will bring good news such as that the budget allocation has been increased and that more girls have been reached. One day the hope is that the reach will go beyond the girl learners and reach women and girls that still use rags and leaves.
Ms Sonti suggested that with regards to the three absent provinces, in the letter that will be written to them, the Committee should propose having the presentations scheduled before schools open so that all children throughout the country can be on track when schools open.
She said that she appreciated the six provinces that came to present and congratulated them. It is important that the Committee works together with provinces so that it can give South Africa a bright future.
Ms Hlengwa congratulated the six provinces and expressed that she was disappointed with the three absent provinces, especially KwaZulu-Natal, which is her province.
The Chairperson told Members that the meeting had come to an end. Responding to Ms Sonti, she said that she will try to schedule a date for before schools open – although it will be difficult because the Committee schedule is packed and meetings have been scheduled already. So if it is scheduled for after the opening of schools, she will just have to forgive that.
She thanked everyone for being present in the meeting and participating fully. She thanked the support staff members for their participation and thanked the Committee Secretary especially, saying that letters had been sent to provinces in December 2020. She reminded Members that the Committee had planned to have the meeting in December 2020 but due to the schedule of Parliament and other meetings that were scheduled before, it was not possible. Therefore, it was postponed to the present date.
Finally, she thanked provinces and hoped that they had learnt something from each other. She said to DDG Tshabalala that the provinces needed to work on uniformity. She also suggested that presentations by provinces must be done biannually because 12 months is too long to wait for feedback.
The meeting was adjourned.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.