Commission for Gender Equality Q1 2022/23 Performance

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

13 September 2022
Chairperson: Ms C Ndaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) briefed the Committee on its first quarter (Q1) performance for 2022/23. The CGE’s audit and risk committee was also present in the virtual meeting.    

In the briefing by the CGE’s audit and risk committee, Members were informed that a recurring theme had emerged where there were large surpluses arising from underspending on personnel costs. Besides advising that vacant posts be filled with urgency, the added reclassification by the Audtior-General of SA (AG) of irregular expenditure to fruitless and wasteful expenditure, the CGE was advised to implement the action plan on the audit findings of the AG regarding the annual performance report especially and including guarding against control weaknesses.                                                                                                             
Members asked about the reported surplus of the CGE and the vacant positions that needed to be filled. The Committee emphasised that the audit and risk committee’s advice had to be complied with as it had an important function. Members asked what the audit and risk committee had done about non-compliance. 14 findings of the audit action plan of 2020/21 were incomplete and outstanding. This was a matter of concern as the audit and risk committee should be monitoring the implementation of the action plan.

The CGE reported that a settlement agreement had been reached with the former CEO. An Acting CEO and a CFO were appointed. Members were informed that the CGE report spoke to its achievements on legislative submissions; on the amounts of people reached through community outreach programs; media interventions and workshops; on the concept notes for four planned projects; HR policies for staff review that were implemented and upgrades to its IT software and hardware systems. Members were concerned when the analysis of the gender complaints was reported as it revealed an increase in Gender-based violence. Its financial report for Q1 of 2022/23 said that the baseline budget allocation increased from R91.4 million to R100.7 million, a 16% increase and that spending patterns were expected to increase because of a relaxation in Covid regulations. A surplus of R6 million was reported for Q1.

Members asked the CGE about the outstanding 14 findings; whether any of the outstanding targets of 2021/22 were addressed; on its vacancies and their impact on the CGE’s performance; on the strengthening of internal governance processes; on the provision of attendance records of Commissioners at Committee meetings; on the importance of doing continuous oversight on the implementation of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide; and on the lack of responsiveness to cases that came to the CGE. Members said that the CGE would find that the AG would raise issues based on the way the CGE had performed in Q1. The Chairperson said that the CGE would be called back in two weeks to respond in more detail to the questions raised.

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson spoke on the application process for the filling of vacancies for Commissioner members of the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE). There had been calls for an extension of the public participation period but this was denied as she felt that enough time was given but she would consult to get a legal opinion.

Briefing by the CGE audit and risk committee: Q1 performance
Mr Nkosini Mashabane, chairperson of the CGE’s audit and risk committee, said that the audit committee had discussed the entity's financial performance. Amongst its observations were the large surpluses arising from underspending on personnel costs and this was a recurring theme. It recommended that the vacant posts be filled with urgency. It also noted a 16% increase in the baseline allocation, implying an increase in underspending. It noted that a number of accommodation lease agreements had expired and there were security concerns at some provincial offices. It urged that the CGE guard against control weaknesses and implement the audit findings of the Auditor-General (AG) relating to the annual performance report. He said that the AG had reclassified the irregular expenditure disclosed in the Annual Financial Statements as fruitless and wasteful, which was a worse finding, as it implied no value had been derived from the spending. He said that the process leading up to the presentation of the AFS to the AG had not been up to standard, giving the audit committee almost no time to see and review the AFS before it was passed on to the AG.

Ms N Sharif (DA) wanted more clarity on the use of the phrase “not given its due diligence”.

Mr Mashabane said the basis for their concerns was the irregular expenditure. Auditors were expected to apply due diligence and report via the management or audit reports. It had happened the previous year and management had accepted the fact that there was non-compliance, however without the appearance of new facts, it had changed the finding to fruitless and wasteful expenditure which was a worse case than the irregular expenditure position because it implied that no value was derived in the expenditure and this was concerning.

Ms B Marekwa (ANC) asked about the reported surplus and the vacant positions that needed to be filled and said that the audit and risk committee’s advice had to be complied with.

The Chairperson quoted from the audit and risk committee report instances of non-compliance and asked what the audit and risk committee had done about these red flags.

Mr Mashabane said that the audit and risk committee had requested management to review the internal audit on the annual financial statements and the report on performance against the pre-determined objectives. He gave the assurance that this step would take place. He said an external firm was appointed to assist in increasing the internal audit capacity. Near the appointment date, the committee could not receive a conclusive report from the reviewers on the financial statement. This was delayed until the date of submission, 31 May, and as a result, two meetings were postponed. On submission day, it told the accounting officer that the manner in which the process was undertaken did not allow the audit and risk committee to render a professional service to the CGE, and it did not allow for engagement with the CFO. The process was not up to standard. The AG did not detect material findings, but the inability to afford assurance providers to deal with the documents was not ok.

Ms F Masiko (ANC) said that 14 findings of the audit action plan of 2020/21 - which was incomplete and outstanding - was a matter of concern and should be a concern for the Audit and Risk Committee.

Mr Mashabane said management was in a better position to answer the question. He noted that there were pre-conditions to respond to some findings. For example, sometimes approvals were required elsewhere, which took a long time.

Ms Masiko said this was a worry to the Committee as the audit and risk committee should be monitoring the implementation of the action plan.

Mr Mashabane said it was a concern to the audit and risk committee where actions on audit findings were not implemented in a timely fashion. He accepted that monitoring had to come, and did come, from the audit and risk committee. He said he would provide detailed written responses.

Mr L Mphithi (DA) said he wanted an overview of the audit and risk committee responses as the Committee was dealing with the issues at the moment.

Mr Mashabane said he wanted to deal with each of the findings regarding non-compliance to give context to the audit and risk committee’s position. On non-compliance issues, the audit and risk committee had stressed the need to use a compliance universe as a monitoring tool to track how far the CGE was complying. He requested extra time to make the written submission.

Mr Mphithi said the response was not acceptable as keeping track of the implementation of the action plan should have been part of the audit and risk committee’s presentation and the function of the audit and risk committee was important.

CGE Q1 performance
Ms Tamara Mathebula, CGE Chairperson, said the CGE would be presenting the entity’s report for the period April to June 2022

The Chairperson said that the presentation should start with the CEO's issue.

Ms Mathebula said a letter had been sent to the Committee notifying them that a Settlement or Separation Agreement had been reached with the former CEO, Ms Robertson. The CGE had appointed Dr Antoinette Ngwenya as CFO who would present the Finance Report. She tendered the apologies of the Deputy Chairperson.

Dr Thembinkosi Twalo, Acting CEO of the CGE, spoke to Outcome 1 on the legislative submissions of the CGE on:
•Small enterprise development masterplan as the national small business support strategy draft national integrated small enterprise development masterplan, 29 June 2022
•Directive on Policy Guidelines and Procedure (recognition of prior learning), 1 June 2022
•The National Health Act, 2003 Act No 61 of 2003: Regulations relating to  Environmental Health, 27 May 2022
•Publication of the Free State integrated local economic development and transformation Bill, 26 May 2022. •Amendment of the CGE Act: Concept notes, SOPs, Operational plans and review criteria have been developed.

On Outcome 2 he said discussed the various amounts of people reached through community outreach programmes; media interventions and workshops.

On Outcome 3, concept notes for four projects were planned. They were for the Gender Responsive Budgeting Monitoring Evaluation Auditing Framework; assessing government’s implementation of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide; Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights; and the proposal for the Women’s Empowerment Project was refined. The Maputo Protocol concept note and the Gender Focal Point concept note were finalised.

On Outcome 4, he said Human Resources (HR) policies for staff review were implemented. The SAGE and CaseWare systems were upgraded. A service provider was appointed to implement the reviving of the HR Premier project. Thirty-five laptops were procured.

There were many pending complaints cases with very few cases being closed and very few cases being opened. Most of the Gender complaints reported include:
Gender-based violence,
Bullying by senior male supervisors especially in private schools and municipalities
Gender-based violence and sexual offences.
Rural areas still attempt to mediate gender-based violence cases including rape cases.
Perpetrators continue to violate victims, resulting in protection orders being issued against the perpetrators, resulting in the killing of victims, mainly women.
Most of the perpetrators often commit suicide after violating the protection order.
DNA remains the hindrance to access to justice for victims of GBVF.

Dr Antoinette Ngwenya, CFO of the CGE, gave the financial report for Quarter 1 of 2022/23. She said the baseline budget allocation increased from R91.4 million to R100.7 million, a 16% increase. She said that spending patterns were expected to increase because of a relaxation in Covid regulations and that there was a surplus of R6 million in Q1. There was a staff turnover in Q1 which would counterbalance the anticipated appointments to be made in Q2. The increase in net assets compared to the previous year was mainly because of the surpluses arising from underspending on staffing.

See presentation for further details

Ms T Masondo (ANC) asked how the various Commissioners allowed the findings to be incomplete. How did the CGE meet government’s goals in the form of the NDP and the SONA? Did the CGE address any of the outstanding targets of 2021/22 and their impact on 2022/23? Which of the 18 administrative positions were not filled by the end of the first quarter and what other new vacancies arose? What are the vacancies at present? How had the vacancies impacted the CGE”s performance and what was the plan to deal with the vacancies? What was the overall assessment of the work done by Commissioners in the first quarter of 2022/23? What key challenges were identified and how would they be addressed? With the term of four Commissioners coming to an end in October, what was being done regarding the handover of reports and the annual report of 2021/22?

Ms Masiko drew attention to the BRRR 2021 report and asked if the CGE had implemented all the recommendations in the report. Some of the important issues in that report were whether surplus funds were retained, the strengthening of internal governance processes, conducting exit interviews, and the provision of attendance records of Commissioners at committee meetings. She asked what the terms of reference of the CGE were on the forced sterilisation of HIV-positive women.

Ms Sharif said she was concerned about how long it took for reports to reach the Committee. She said it was important to do continuous oversight on implementing the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. On the cases that came to the CGE, she said she referred cases but the CGE was not responsive.

Mr S Ngcobo (DA) wanted to know why some provinces did not respond to their questionnaires and had the CGE followed this up. On sustainable development goals, he asked which four municipalities the CGE had meetings with on sustainable development goals through gender mainstreaming and what the outcomes were. How did the CHE determine the effectiveness of sessions or workshops?

Mr Mphithi said it surprised him that the CEO was made to account for when he was not in the position for the first quarter. Was there a head of research or was that position vacant? Were there any follow-ups after the oversight visits to the North West and Gauteng and what actions were taken? Regarding complaints of the CGE, he asked to what extent complainants received assistance. He said vacant senior positions remained a concern and asked if there was a plan to fill the vacancies. How many Senior Managers were assisting the current CEO?

The Chairperson said that in the AG’s assessment on the Annual Report, there were 14 findings that the CGE had to resolve through an action plan which the audit and risk committee had to monitor the implementation. Was there a plan and was its implementation being monitored? She said that the CGE acted very slowly and not quickly enough on the issue of the CEO and the issues of Commissioners Deyi and Botha. She questioned the seriousness put into the work they were doing as the work was not up to expectations. Most of the issues raised were issues that were raised before. She said that the CGE was underfunded and underspending. She said that the CGE had not proposed any piece of legislation, not even 50:50 gender parity. She said further that the CGE would find that the AG would raise issues based on the way the CGE had performed in the first quarter. She wanted the current cases to be fast-tracked to finalisation. She said that vacancies had not been filled for a period of more than two years.

On the question of where the CGE buildings were in the provinces and to whom these buildings belonged, and on the issue of lease agreements, Ms Mathebula said all provincial offices and the Head Office belonged to the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) and lease agreements were signed with them. She said the CGE had looked at the accessibility of some of its offices like in the North West where a task team was instituted to look at the buildings of the CGE. The CGE was looking at implementing some of the recommendations of that report. She said some lease agreements had recently been signed even though the CGE did not want to be there because they did not feel safe there like in Mpumalanga and this lease was being renegotiated.

On the filling of vacancies, she said that the position of Head of Legal which was vacant for two years and that of the Head of Public Education & Information (PEI) had to be filled urgently and the advertisement for the Head of Legal, the CEO, and for Provincial Legal Officers was published recently. She said that as soon as the settlement with the former CEO was settled, the post of CEO would be filled urgently.

On the status of the policy and the review of the current handbook, she acknowledged that the process was slower than they had anticipated. The CGE was using the old handbook in terms of policy while the new handbook was being finalised. It took two years to review the handbook and a lot of gaps were identified. The reviewed handbook was subjected to external quality assurance and came back as an unrecognisable different animal as the external quality assurer had treated the CGE as a company. The CGE had spent two days trying to bring the handbook back to where it had been. It was currently at the last few pages reviewing the code of conduct of commissioners. Once completed it would be shared with the Committee.

On the issue of the Acting CEO having to respond to issues of the first quarter, she said she agreed that it was unfair but the CGE was looking at how best it could assist the Acting CEO in responding to questions. Dr Thembisile Twalo was appointed to be the Senior Head of the CGE and would be supported by existing Senior Managers, the CFO, the CGE spokesperson, the Internal Audit Manager, the acting PEI, the head of legal, the commissioners, the provincial managers and the communications manager

On the outstanding reports of the CGE, she said the report on the commissioner’s attendance was submitted on Friday.

On the CGE’s monitoring of government department’s role in implanting the NSP, she said that the CGE started at the bottom monitoring the Emergency Response Action Plan and that report was shared. The CGE would look at the first-year rollout of the National Strategic Plan on gender violence and Femicide to make their own monitoring report on the rollout by government departments.

She requested that the CGE be given the opportunity to sit with senior management to provide the details for a written response to questions raised that were not answered.

The Chairperson said that the CGE would be called back in two weeks to respond to the questions raised in more detail.

On Mr Mashabane, she asked when he was appointed Chair of the audit and risk committee.

On the 14 findings that were not responded to satisfactorily, Mr Mashabane said the outstanding findings were in the areas of non-financial performance information, compliance with laws and regulations, governance and control issues, and HR-related transactions.

On the accuracy of the information reported, he said that while there were no material findings in the AG’s report, there were findings in the Management Report. The root cause was the lack of assigned resources to monitor performance reports against the pre-determined objectives. In this way, it could be tested.

On the scope limitation on the audit unit, he said it was discussed with the Chairperson and emphasised the importance of unrestricted access to internal audits. There was a need to address governance at the CGE. The audit and risk committee had proposed that CGE do a governance review to align the PFMA, the accounting officer's role, and the authority of the CGE handbook to ensure accountability. The audit and risk committee has not seen what the reviewers said regarding the changes in the handbook.

On the issues around HR management, he said the audit and risk committee noted that most of these issues were recurring and had included audit tasks that would attend to HR. That management would be responsive to the audit findings. He said their next meeting would look at improving the audit outcome improvement plan of 2021/22.

On the lack of information being submitted, he said the AG did not raise this issue.

On the need to review policies, he said there were still gaps even though progress had been made and the internal audit findings on health, and staff security suggested that the policy was inadequate and should be reviewed. There was also a finding on inappropriate segregation of roles in the finance and SCM unit which was concerning as it could lead to fraud and corruption. There was a need for a CFO and the CFO to ensure the necessary resources so that one person did not assume incompatible duties. The standard operating procedures also needed to be reviewed. The lack of accountability in submitting performance information was a root cause for limitations in allowing the audit and risk committee to exercise its oversight duties.

On asset management and the relevant controls, he said this related to offices and to people assigned to the security of those spaces. On oversight visits to these places, he noted the absence of health and safety representatives at the offices, weakening the security structures.

On the issue of retaining surpluses, Dr Ngwenya said that they did not, but their allocation was adjusted by the same amount, however the budget allocation would revert to the original amount in the outer years.

On the handover plan, Ms Mathebula said handovers were important and the handbook was mute on the handover process that the CGE commissioners needed to follow. She said the CGE would ensure that the handover reports were submitted to the Committee and that secondly, there would be a redistribution of commissioner delegates to provinces while the four commissioner posts were vacant and to ensure a proper handover process.

On the post of Company Secretary, she said the matter was deliberated upon and was looking to that happening within the CGE.

On why court monitoring only happened in four provinces, she said the work was supposed to cover all nine provinces but there were only responses from four provinces. The CGE had decided to look at and review the tool that had been developed to collect data on the court monitoring. The CGE was also monitoring SAPS in addition to the courts.

On the work being done in the North West, the CGE Commissioner, Adv Nthabiseng Mogale, said that the visit of 19 - 20 April had raised the issue of the unplanned water and electricity cuts in the current building. The CGE had intervened and to date, there had been no more cuts to water and electricity, but the CGE was still going to move. The DPWI had offered a building in central Mahikeng but the CGE were not pleased with the location of the building and rejected it and were waiting for other alternatives and gave them some suggestions on locations. The CGE had also visited the shelters and following that, wrote out a list of questions for the shelter to answer. The CGE asked the Department of Social Development (DSD), under which the shelter fell, to also give answers as there had been changes to the board of the shelter. DSD- North West had responded to the questions raised. A permanent legal officer would be employed in that province.

The meeting was adjourned.

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