The Ditsong Museums of South Africa (DMSA) is an amalgamation of eight museums, seven in Tshwane and one in Johannesburg. It presented its revised 2021/22 Annual Performance Plan and noted the financial challenges affecting it due to decreased revenue and Treasury budget cuts. Its staff would be paid their March 2022 salaries late as there were no funds left for this financial year. It outlined its Financial Sustainability Programme of Action. It seeks to increase visibility through more marketing and expanding other avenues of their portfolios in addition to their core function to increase own generated income. The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC) also provided an overview of Ditsong.
Members raised concerns that the turnaround strategy is starting as the term of the current Council is coming to an end. Other questions were the high vacancy rate; the expenditure on consultants; freezing of all non-critical positions; and if there was an increase in visitors once Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed. The clean audit was commended.
The Committee discussed a letter of concern from a Committee member about the R14.9 million tender allocated to a wellness company to aid artists. It questioned how many artists have benefitted from this and requested the Minister account to the Committee about this.
The Committee Secretary made Members aware that the Chairperson was not present. As per National Assembly Rule 158(1)(a) members had to elect an acting chairperson. Mr M Zondi (ANC) nominated Ms R Adams (ANC) with Mr B Mamabolo (ANC) seconding. Mr T Mhlongo (DA) was also nominated with no seconder therefore it was decided Ms Adams would be acting chairperson.
Ms R Adams (ANC) in her opening statement as Acting Chairperson highlighted Human Rights month celebrated on 21 March annually. She emphasized the importance of human dignity and human rights such as right to life, freedom of expression, right to work and education without discrimination. The Committee should always remember to play its role to fulfil its mandate. She noted that the Chairperson, who is attending to a family matter, had sent her apologies. Apologies were noted from the Minister and Deputy Minister who were in another meeting.
Ditsong Museums of South Africa overview by Department
As the Department's Director General had a poor network connection, his colleague took over the presentation. He noted the DMSA mandate and said that it had achieved 72% of its targets for 2020/21 and achieved a clean audit for the second consecutive year. Its budget for 2021/22 was R94.6 million. The three-year term of its Council would end on 30 June 2022 and there had been good participation from its members with a 100% attendance of meetings.
• The service delivery interruptions at the Tswaing Meteorite Crater was escalated to the Minister by the Council as the Jukulane Business Forum continued to hamper business operations at its satellite there and the challenges had been politicised. Intervention: Ministerial Imbizos to be scheduled in the Tswaing Crater area and the Council will continue with its community engagement framework with the aim to get buy-in from the community business stakeholders as long term relief.
• Another challenge was the need for infrastructure maintenance / fencing of the agricultural land as well as unused agricultural land at the Willem Prinsloo Agricultural Museum and its great potential for revenue from agricultural activities. Intervention: Proposals of partnerships to be reviewed by the entity on pursuing farming activities
• Infrastructure challenges at the Sammy Marks museum continue being the prime reason daily activities cannot be pursued to the maximum. Intervention: DSAC had prioritized the security of the satellites of the Ditsong, however that has not translated to secure museums. DSAC infrastructure unit to update.
• Loss of the farmers market contractor at the Pioneer Museum resulted in zero profit being accumulated by the Ditsong. The supplier who was originally there, brought a lot of revenue, however due to the need to rotate suppliers, a new one did not properly understand the composition of the whole contract, as a result misquoted the Ditsong, which eventually led to contractual challenges, as a result the contract was terminated. Intervention: Operational issues to be attended to by the Ditsong management.
Ditsong Museums of South Africa (DMSA) revised 2021/22 Annual Performance Plan
Ms Annabelle Lebethe, DMSA CEO, in presenting the revised annual performance plan, noted these highlights:
• Stable leadership
• Effective governance
• Two consecutive clean audits
• Improved brand visibility
• Improved performance
• Best Museum 2018-2020
The pandemic had caused several lowlights:
• Reduced own-revenue collection.
• Negative impact on clean audit and going concern.
• Impact on service delivery due to the revision of the APP.
• Implementation of Turnaround Strategy derailed due to liquidity challenges
In January 2020, Council initiated a discussion on the financial sustainability of Ditsong Museums. The Financial Sustainability Programme of Action (Turnaround Strategy) was adopted by Council to set Ditsong on a path to financial sustainability, taken into account what other institutions were doing. Covid-19 delayed DMSA plans to implement the Turnaround Strategy. Although DMSA has achieved two clean audits, the inability to pay creditors will result in an audit regression and its going concern status will be negatively impacted. DMSA is under financial distress and the main causes are: Under-collection of own revenue; Budget cuts from National Treasury; Underfunded utility bills. Revenue had been relatively constant at R10 million but there was drastic drop to R4 million as a result of the impact of the Covid-19 regulations.
Challenges being attended to:
• Financial sustainability
• Ageing building stock
• Land claims
• New permanent exhibitions
• Digitization of heritage assets – planned projects will be delayed
• ICT systems.
Ms V Malomane (ANC) referred to the freezing of all non-critical positions at the beginning of 2021/22 and asked if the vacancy rate had since increased and the impact on the Ditsong to deliver on its mandate. Since the country is on Lockdown Level 1, has the number of visitors increased?
Ms D Sibiya (ANC) said she was covered by the questions Ms Malomane posed.
Mr D Joseph (DA) asked if all the eight Ditsong museums have head of museums. What was the revenue in 2020/21? He asked about the commercialisation aspect of the strategy and if the visitors were mainly international or local.
Ms V van Wyk (DA) asked the reasons for the business forum challenge at Tswaing. She asked how are the infrastructure amounts determined. Why is there no risk management plan and how are the researchers tracked?
Mr Zondi commended the financial accountability of the clean audits. He noted Ditsong is grant dependent as per allocation. Target performance fluctuated over the last three year targets from 61% to 74% and down to 72% which does not seem to illustrate an improvement. He asked for elaboration on the liquidity challenges that derailed the turnaround strategy. How did underfunding of utilities result in the decline of visitors? How will the opening of the country assist with its financial sustainability or turnaround strategy implementation? Considering the remaining term of Council leadership is only a few months yet the turnaround strategy is for five years, he asked for comment from the leadership on the turnaround strategy.
Mr Mhlongo said that he wished the Minister was present in this meeting due to Covid-19 having affected Ditsong and its satellite museums. The presentation was not clear as there is no detailed information per satellite museum. Suggestions for future was that information should be conveyed about each satellite – its own challenges and successes. There was also concern at the contradiction of 100% budget used yet only 72% service delivery was achieved.
Another concern was the high consultant fees. Why are there still consultant fees and they have not been reduced? How much is City of Tshwane owed for utilities and was any debt arrangement made with the city? Is there any budget received from Department of Tourism? He asked for detail on what affected service delivery. He asked about diversity and transformation since there is not much diversity as it is supposed to encompass all races and ages. What is the role of the independent chairperson? He asked if there is one website linking to the different satellite museums. Ditsong has offered post-employment benefits such as medical aid, are the benefits distributed accordingly? Lastly, what are the mitigations for staff issues?
Ms Lebethe replied about staff morale and the vacancy rate. There is transparent communication with all staff through regular staff meetings and engagement with labour. Some had reached time for retirement, while some curator positions were placed on hold. There is currently a team of curators and researchers who can double up on the responsibility of certain functions. For example, the rate of peer reviewed publications by researchers has improved annually. Therefore, there has not been significant or material impact caused by the vacancies in question. The freeze on posts has been temporary since Covid-19 and due to the R1.5 million reduction in compensation of employees. Certain positions had to be frozen which is not long-term. This year the decision was taken not to fill non-critical positions since it would have impacted service delivery. There had been a slight improvement in the number of visitors, with the main stream coming from schools. In Quarter 3 there was 65 000 visitors. The annual target was 200 000 which was brought down with hopes that visits will increase in Quarter 4 due to activities at the museums.
On each museum having a head, the three satellite museums are headed by executive members. The military history, cultural history and national history museums do have directors of museums and the satellites have site curators which are essentially site managers. Those that are geographically close to each other have one manager. The historical annual revenue trends on slide 49 show there had been good revenue with an average of R10 million with the highest being R11 million in 2018/19. This dropped to R3 million in 2020/21 as a result of Covid-19 and a projected R4 million for 2021/22. Overall, historically it has been doing well but with the recognition that more can be done to further improve.
On the commercialization aspect, its turnaround strategy states there are the property portfolios such as at Sammy Marks Museum, there are birthday parties and weddings as well as kiddies activities. The Museum of Military History is said to be favoured a lot more by the younger boys and more birthday parties are hosted there as a result. For the Pioneer Museum through the art and culture programme, there is a partnership with a non-profit called Concerts SA which gets funding from the Norwegian Embassy. The arrangement is the hosting some of their concerts at the Pioneer Museum. The future plans in places like Tswaing include looking to add quad biking, camping sites and building pools. Further selling prints to generate more income. In addressing how more visitors are attracted, Ms Lethebe emphasized marketing as a key tool. Examples would be the Choice Leadership awards, there are in partnership with the Pretoria Bucket List. There was also participation in Tourism Indaba in Durban selling the entity more broadly.
No money is received from the Department of Tourism. However, there is a valuable partnership as when Tourism markets products and services available in the city, Ditsong forms part of that as well as other collaborative initiatives where there is a benefit.
Mr Kennedy Kaposa, DMSA Chief Financial Officer, responded that the R17 million received will be distributed towards paying March salaries, paying service providers who are in accrual for outstanding invoices and finally electricity and rent. The list was provided to DSAC .The R17 million was short of the initially requested R24 million. The R7 million shortage will be addressed as a liability to be carried into the next financial year and interventions put in place for this deficit.
He explained the infrastructure amounts are determined by a project manager which is a requirement for the infrastructure grant received from the Department. The manager has an auditor server that does the costing for all projects identified. In addition, there is a User Asset Management Plan (U-AMP) where those amounts are included and submitted to the Department.
On the challenges being addressed by the turnaround strategy, the root causes are the budget cuts experienced over the years, reduced own revenue and underfunding of utilities. Thus far there has been no effect to visitors as there had been timely interventions in paying electricity including negotiating with the City of Tshwane.
On post-employment medical aid benefits, this is for retired employees and there is an HR policy dealing with that. It is a liability that needs to be managed. It does not apply to current employees.
Ms Lethebe replied about Council meetings. In the Annual Report, it states each Council Committee has four standard meetings per annum. The Council then has one or two additional meetings in preparation for the financial statements as well meeting with the Audit and Risk Committee. All meetings were within the Council budget and approved by Council. There is a risk management plan both at Council strategic level and operational level. Researchers are attracted through Ditsong having good relations with academic institutions. This creates a pipeline for future recruitment and most researchers have been with the organisation for some time. Funding has been received in the past from the National Research Foundation (NRF) for postgraduate students to work at one of the museums. For vacant positions like curators, it often stressed that they ought to demonstrate through their research skills and being a thought leader for the organization.
On the challenge noted at Tswaing in March 2020, since then there is now a site manager responsible for Tswaing and relationships are being maintained. There had been series of consultations with the police in bringing the parties together to form an agreement. There had been agreement on a portion of the requirements for security to come from the business group. It is an ongoing management issue. There are concerns about the need for fencing in connection with access, poaching, grazing and the implication of cross breeding. There had been several meetings about the need for a solution for that.
Mr Vusumzi Mhikze, DSAC Director General, addressed the question of staff. One of the supports that was looked at with the approval of Treasury was all people who had been offered bursaries by the Department should be able to get employment opportunities. It aims placing 15 graduates in the museums next year for a period of at least two years to complement staff shortages. In addition, there is R2 million bursary scheme from Treasury to assist in creating these opportunities.
On sustainability and growth of Ditsong, there is agreement to create an enabling environment to have more visitors and create more own generated funding. This culture needs to be created through lots of marketing to local visitors and raising awareness about the importance of museums. The observation made was that there is little appreciation towards museums where locals would rather go to a soccer or rugby match and spend lots of money. Therefore, awareness of the value of museums should be steered forward. There has been work with the Department of Tourism finalising assisting with increase of tourists to museums.
The Director General said that transformation seeks to address the injustices of the past. He agreed the 50/50 gender was a step in the right direction. There needs to be work on racial diversity to have more of a multicultural institution. On the increase in Council meetings, it is noted why they needed to take place considering the need to address Ditsong's challenges.
The Acting Chairperson urged Ditsong to make it fashionable to school children and communities about what they have to offer. The heritage of our communities should never be taken for granted. She was impressed by the way the challenges are being handled.
Mr Mhlongo commented that Members should not lie to themselves that the museum is diverse. He asked about the website. Secondly, why is so much money – about R4 to 5 million allocated for consultants?
Mr Joseph commented that Ditsong should focus on its core business and not spend money on things like quad bikes. In addition, not paying bills on time is not a reflection of good governance and it needs to lead by example. On the Ditsong exhibitions, he said some of the museums are still having what occurred prior to democracy and they now need to display transformation.
Mr Kaposa addressed the matter of consultants. The services outsourced cannot be done internally such as the Vuvuzela hotline, payroll services, the company appointed to deal with employee relations, a service provider for evaluation of post retirement liability, and an annual service provider for the BBBEE certificate for the audit.
Mr Mhlongo was not impressed by the response. He questioned why HR matters are outsourced as it should be something that is internal. Secondly, what is the role of the independent chairperson?
He noted that transformation is process and not an event. Gender has improved yet more work needs to be done on diversity. There needs to be working together with the museum to continually transform the space so it can shape a narrative that reflects the country’s identity.
The Acting Chairperson decided to close the round of questions and said that Members who are still not satisfied can put their questions in writing for the secretary to send to Ditsong.
Mr Mhlongo raised a point of exigency. He had asked three times what is an independent chairperson. Secondly, why are there consultation fees for matters that are supposed to be internal such as Human Resources?
The Acting Chairperson reluctantly allowed DMSA to provide a response.
Ms Lebethe addressed the consultancy. There is a company appointed that does counselling services that cannot be done by HR. This is provided to staff members to deal with mental health and allows them to be productive. Ditsong does not have capacity to provide such a service itself.
Ms Karabo Rapoo, Council Chairperson, replied that having an independent chairperson is a practice very common among many entities within the sector to strengthen good governance.
The Acting Chairperson released Ditsong and the Department.
Letter of concern about wellness company for artists
The Acting Chairperson established that all Members confirmed receipt of the letter.
Mr Mhlongo explained the context of the letter. There is a R14.9 million tender allocated to a company for wellness of artists. The question is how many artists have benefitted from this. Many artists are dying poor lately and some reach the point of killing themselves due to depression. There are calls for the Minister to come and account how much of the R14.9 million has been spent to date and how many artists have benefitted. He has spoken to several artists who state they are not aware of this company.
Mr Mamabolo suggested either the Department can answer on behalf of the Minister or have the Minister prepare the answers.
Mr Zondi questioned why this person did not complain to the Minister directly but only to Mr Mhlongo. Yes, accountability needs to be taken; but who is the complainant?
Ms Malomane stated she saw the letter. There was a launch early this year on the Department Facebook page. The question is has Mr Mhlongo written to the Minister as believes this item should not be included separately. There is agreement that not all artists would know of this which speaks to how much more work needs to be done in raising awareness about such platforms.
Mr Joseph commented that Minister must report when asked to do so. This matter can be brought as a meeting agenda item for 30 minutes with the Minister present to provide accountability and transparency.
Mr Mhlongo was impressed that some Committee Members were fully aware of this endeavour as this was presented to the Committee in 2020. Artists are a constituency of the Committee and people can complain to any MP and he is doing his oversight role.
Ms Van Wyk agreed with Mr Mhlongo and Mr Joseph.
Mr Zondi said he will not withdraw the statement about why it was not initially raised with the Minister and then to the Committee as a last resort.
Mr Mhlongo raised a point of order that it is not a complaint but a concern.
Ms Malomane stated the matter was presented to them and it is in the reports of the Department including a launch held earlier this year. The question then posed to Mr Mlhongo was did he write to the Minister in doing his constituency work and if the Minister perhaps never responded. Further, he seems to know if it was contracted or not which brings contradiction. The suggestion was could he request the Minister to respond in writing. If that fails, he is within his right as a Committee member to bring it to the Committee.
Mr Mhlongo replied that he had previously emailed the Minister but had no response to date. Though it was in the presentation it was not mentioned how many artists benefitted. Members should not be afraid of accountability.
The matter would be added to the Committee programme.
The Acting Chairperson adjourned the meeting.
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