The Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities met on a virtual platform to receive briefings from the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) on the audit outcomes of the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) for 2021/22 financial year. It was also briefed by the Department's audit and risk committee (ARC) on its annual performance report. The briefings highlighted the severe challenge of under-spending which was flagged across all the programmes in the Department’s portfolio.
In its interaction with AGSA, the Committee's majority view was that its audit was disappointing. Despite the NYDA’s clean audit, Members sought reassurance from the AGSA on the performance of the organisation, particularly considering the allegation that the organisation had spent R2.4 million to build a house in the Sedibeng Municipality, as well as various other allegations that had been levelled against the organisation recently.
Members wanted to know what selection criteria the AGSA used to choose the programmes for auditing, expressing concern that audit outcomes could be misleading as they did not always reflect the reality on the ground, as women were being murdered and raped, youth were unemployed, and persons with disabilities were not being looked after. They listed issues that the AG’s report had not covered, such as the non-implementation of the Sanitary Dignitary Programme in Gauteng and a programme beneficiary not receiving a kitchen trailer. They found it unacceptable that their requested documents still had not been submitted to the Committee.
The Committee urged the Department to look after persons with disabilities, an often neglected and overlooked population, and explicitly stated that it was unacceptable to have under-spent on the programme related to this vulnerable group. They also emphasised the importance of having internal controls and consequence management measures in place for good governance.
Members questioned whether the ARC treated the internal audit process as a box-ticking exercise, and was not looking into issues deeply. They stressed that the internal audit should have detected issues of concern earlier and informed the Department to allow it more time to address matters like under-spending. They pointed out that the Department’s cases of financial misconduct and irregular expenditure had not been included in the ARC report, and asked it to elaborate on the nature of the financial misconduct.
Members expressed concern that the Department had not followed and implemented the ARC’s recommendations and no consequence management measures had been implemented. This created a bad environment as people involved in misconduct could get away with their crimes with impunity. The Director-General acknowledged that she had difficulty confronting her employees about work issues, because if she reprimanded them for not doing their work, they would start complaining and accuse her of bullying. Members reassured the Minister and the DG that they would have the full support of the Committee should they discipline a non-performing employee, and that there would not be an occasion where they would side with a non-performing employee.
The Committee's DA Members criticised the Minister for her poor record of attendance at its meetings, despite the Department’s poor performance and R31 million under-spending. They rejected the Department’s continuous blame game and attributed its poor performance to the COVID-19 restriction measures. They also found it unacceptable that the Minister had remained deafeningly silent after Police Minister Cele’s remarks following the Krugersdorp rape incident.
Among other issues, Members enquired about the Department’s strategies to achieve key objectives such as the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063, and to increase public awareness of its activities. They also expressed concern over the Department’s use of consultants, since it indicated that its employees were not qualified to do their work.
AGSA briefing on DWYPD audit outcomes
Ms Corne Myburgh, Business Executive, Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA), and Mr Thabo Ntuli, Audit Manager, AGSA, jointly made the briefing on the audit outcomes of the Department of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities (DWYPD) and its entities, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE).
The DWYPD had achieved 95% of its targets, the NYDA had achieved 100%, while the CGE had achieved only 68% of its targets.
The medium-term strategic framework (MTSF) analysis was provided to the Committee.
The under-spending of DWYPD was highlighted in the presentation. The national strategic plan on gender-based violence (GBV) was elaborated on in detail.
The quality of financial reporting of the Department, the CGE and the NYDA was described to the Committee.
Compliance with key legislation was outlined. The NYDA had no material findings in both 2021 and 2022. Both the DWYPD and the CGE had material findings.
In the 2021/22 financial year, the CGE had irregular expenditure amounting to R1 656 000, and the Department had irregular expenditure amounting to R187 000.
The Office of the AG briefed the Committee on the consequence management measures that all entities had used to deal with the irregular expenditure.
The AG’s office made recommendations, with all the details indicated in the attached presentation slides.
The Chairperson confirmed that an anonymous email was circulating in the public domain alleging corruption and irregular spending at the NYDA. She had had a meeting with the Office of the AG on the very same issue. She wanted to know if the NYDA's chief executive officer (CEO) had audited the concerns raised by the anonymous source, and requested an update on what action had been taken so far. She understood that some issues in the letter may not fall within the AG’s scope of practice.
She asked the AG’s Office to explain why its audit had focused only on Programme 2 whilst neglecting Programmes 4 and 5, which had not performed well in the Committee’s opinion. She questioned whether the AG’s Office had done that because it was easier for them, and therefore wondered whether the AG’s report could still be a true reflection of the Department’s work. She did not know which sets of criteria the AG’s Office had used when selecting auditing samples, but indicated that their selection criteria might lead to misleading outcomes.
The Chairperson stated that she had raised the issue with the AG’s office numerous times in the past that the number of performance targets for the Department should be centred on the principle of assessing whether the public funds which the Department had been allocated had provided value.
She sought clarity on the AG’s audit of the NYDA. She had not found any mention of the house that the NYDA had built in Sedibeng Municipality that had cost R2.4 million in the AG’s audit report. The Committee had received a report from the NYDA in which it explained that it had actually spent R500 000 in the form of stipends to pay the interns.
The Chairperson commented that the approximately R5 million in under-spending for the disabled programme shed a negative light on the Department, and showed that it did not care about the wellbeing of disabled people. She reminded the AG that such an issue was an example that it must audit more programmes, otherwise it would lead to incompatibility between the AG’s audit and a completely different reality on the ground. For instance, she found it unacceptable that R5 million had had to be returned to National Treasury despite the outcry from the public that many disabled people needed government’s assistance. During the Committee’s oversight, a disabled person had said he needed a wheelchair, but the Department had claimed that there were no available funds to procure wheelchairs, but R5 million had been reimbursed toTreasury.
Ms N Sharif (DA) described the AG’s report as not getting to the crux of the reality. She echoed the Chairperson’s view on the R5 million issue and the discovery during their oversight visit that a person needed a wheelchair which the Department said it could not provide due to a lack of funds.
She criticised the lack of a regulatory role performed by the AGSA. For instance, she noted that the AG’s Office did not pick up the non-performance of the Sanitary Dignitary programme in Gauteng which Members had discovered during their oversight visit.
She believed that a number of the targets were low for the national strategic plan on gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF). Given the severity of GBVF in the country, she suggested the issue should be red flagged and the AG’s Office dig in a bit deeper.
She noted Mr Ntuli’s explanation that the AG’s Office could not see more details in a programme because the number of targets was low. She pointed out that even the AG’s audit in Programme 2 did not reflect the reality on the ground because women’s blood was spilling on the floor in the country.
Ms Sharif added that it was disappointing that the AG was not looking into issues concerned with persons with disabilities, because those people were struggling on a daily basis.
Mr L Mphithi (DA) noted that the NYDA had met all its targets. However, huge concerns have surfaced in the past few weeks following allegations of corruption, procurement irregularity, nepotism against the CEO, tenders and contracts awarded to friends and families, budget spending, etc. He observed that the AG had made no mention of those issues in the report, and needed to know whether those allegations were true or false.
He questioned the validity and accuracy of the AG’s audit. Although the NYDA, by its audit, had ticked all the boxes, Committee Members had discovered a range of issues, such as a kitchen trailer not being delivered to the designated beneficiary of the NYDA, etc. He was also concerned about the lack of information, such as the documents the Committee had requested in the AG’s report.
Overall, he described the AG’s report as disappointing.
Ms F Masiko (ANC) endorsed her colleagues’ views and agreed that it became difficult for Members to do their oversight work without the AG’s audit for Programmes 4 and 5. Members needed an overall picture of those two programmes.
She appreciated that the NYDA had obtained a clean audit, but highlighted that it was equally important that those serious allegations of financial misconduct be included in the AG’s report.
She emphasised the importance of having internal controls and the necessary checks and balances in place. For instance, she was concerned that although some of the CGE’s annual reports showed that the organisation had met certain targets, those targets were sometimes marked as not met upon further scrutiny of the annual reports.
The issue of consequence management was something which the AG’s Office should pay close attention to. There were repeated issues revealed in reports, and such repetition was unacceptable. The people who were responsible for those issues must be held accountable.
Ms Sharif asked the AG’s Office about the R15 million fund allocated to the GBVF council. She asked why the AG had not included that in its report.
Ms Myburgh explained to the Committee that it was the decision of the Office of the AG, as a procedural matter, that the AGSA audited only one programme since 2020. It came to the decision to accommodate the difficulty of working during the COVID-19 period. However, she confirmed that the AGSA was moving to audit more than one programme this financial year.
She said the criteria which the AGSA considered were the core function of the Department, the amount related to the budget, etc. She assured the Committee that they would definitely include Members’ inputs in their audit for this financial year.
She affirmed that the AGSA had working relationships with all the internal audit committees. She clarified the difference between the nature of work between the AG’s audit and the auditing of internal audit committees. Internal audit committees were more of a management tool, carrying out internal control measures to pick up any potential risk, whereas the AGSA expressed opinions of financial statements. The actual use of assets was not part of the AG’s work scope. She suggested having a joint session with the internal audit committees, the Portfolio Committee and the AG’s Office to clarify the roles and responsibilities of each organisation.
The Chairperson suggested that the AG consider conducting a needs analysis before procurement. The AG needed to examine whether procurement was needed and include that as part of the audit parameters. The Department must also motivate why certain services must be procured.
Ms Myburgh described AGSA's role as providing assurance. The AG verified whether the presented financial statement complied with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). Regarding the performance information, the indicators contained in the Department’s APP were approved by the Minister and the Portfolio Committee. The AG could only go as far as the situation allowed and flag insufficient information as a concern to the Committee.
She referred the question regarding the R15 million fund that had been allocated to the GBVF council to the Department.
Ms Myburgh acknowledged that the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) had made adjustments to its performance indicators. The AG’s view on that was that its internal controls were not strong enough to pick up the inaccurate information in the supporting documents the organisation had submitted.
The AGSA would clarify and send the Committee a list of those allegations related to the NYDA, which fall within the jurisdiction of AGSA, and their corresponding outcomes.
The Chairperson interjected and expressed concern regarding the donors who had donated to the Department, the NYDA and the CGE. The Committee so far had not received any report on how the donation funds were being spent, and requested the AG provide a report on how the funds had been utilised.
Ms Sharif said that she knew that the Department was aware of the R15 million. Her question was specifically directed at the AG’s Office -- whether it was aware and why it did not audit the expenditure of that R15 million.
Mr Ntuli explained that although the AGSA had not audited Programmes 4 and 5, it did provide reasons for the under-spending or over-spending. It was of the view that the management of the Department would be in a better position to respond to why it had over- or under-spent in the programmes.
More specifically, he presumed Ms Sharif had been referring to the under-spending that was related to the development of the national GBVF council. Since it had not yet been established, R5 million allocated in the current year had also not been spent.
Mr Ntuli said the AGSA did not select to audit the disability programme this year. It had selected Programme 3 in its audit for the previous year, and this year it selected Programme 2 after considering the Committee’s input.
On the allegation related to the NYDA having spent R2.6 million to build a house in Sedibeng municipality, he said that the management of the media, which had posted this letter in the public, had retracted this allegation about the NYDA. The AGSA had not selected that in the audit after careful evaluation. However, the NYDA did provide a stipend to youths involved in the NYS programme.
Responding to the question about beneficiaries not receiving payments on time, he said that the AGSA first audited the NYDA applications to see whether due processes were being adhered to, then checked if approval was done correctly, as well as whether payments were approved. The AGSA had flagged the concern that beneficiaries did not get what was due to them, and referred Members to slides 7 to 18 of the presentation for more information.
The Chairperson requested a report to further elaborate on the issues which Members had raised. She said that the AGSA may choose to elaborate on those points in writing or make an arrangement to do it via a presentation to the Committee.
Ms Sharif recommended that the AG include a full and thorough report in its audit work on the Department’s performance on GBVF in its feedback to the Committee. She was not satisfied with the AG’s explanation of the R15 million.
Audit & Risk Committee briefing on DWYPD annual report
Ms Gratitude Ramphaka, Audit and Risk Committee (ARC), DWYPD, briefed the Committee on its internal audit of the DWYPD.
During the 2021/22 financial year, the Audit and Risk Committee (ARC) met five times to oversee the Department’s quarterly performance reports and convened two special ARC meetings. The first was to consider and recommend the Department’s draft annual report for approval by the Accounting Officer. The second was to consider and discuss the AGSA's annual audit report and the management report for the 2021/22 financial year with management and the AGSA.
Mr Vusumuzi Shongwe, Director: Internal Audit, DWYPD, described the internal audit process for the Department’s annual report. The audit covered its performance information, its financial information, its financial management, effectiveness of internal controls, human resource management, internal audit and risk management.
(More details can be found in the presentation slides.)
Ms Sharif asked the ARC how it audited the Department’s programmes -- whether it simply did a routine box-ticking exercise, or looked into important issues deeply.
Ms Masiko questioned the effectiveness of ARC’s internal controls. She highlighted the importance of detecting under-spending issues much earlier to allow the Department a longer period to rectify this key under-performance issue. When the ARC only picked up potential under-spending in Quarter 3, the Department would be left with very limited time to catch up in Quarter 4.
She had flagged the ARC’s remark a concern. She sought clarity on what it meant when it had stated that the Department’s commitment to reducing the financing of unbudgeted needs was a measure to reduce under-spending.
She asked why the Department’s financial misconduct case and irregular expenditure had not been included in the ARC's report.
Mr Mphithi requested an update on the report that the Committee had requested from its last meeting with the ARC.
He also sought more details on point 2 of slide 10. He wanted to know the types of misconduct or behaviour, and who had been involved, in the irregular expenditures concerning the consequence management the Department had implemented.
Ms Ramphaka said the Department’s programmes were audited by its internal auditors every quarter. The audit process included assessing "smart" principles, how the targets were set, whether what had been reported was accurate in terms of liability and usefulness, etc. The internal audit would give feedback to the Department’s management, and then the ARC receives the reports from the management, so the ARC relies on internal audit functions.
Ms Ramphaka said the financial misconduct warnings were concerning misconduct in the 2021 financial year. The consequence management was that the Department had issued final warnings.
She acknowledged that overall there had been a bit of a regression in the Department’s internal audit control effectiveness. The ARC did pick up potential areas of concerns in advance, but was assured that such concerns would be attended to. However, some of those concerns were not attended to as promised, and then the ARC faced a conundrum that some of those concerns would be picked up only in Quarter 3, and would thus leave the Department very limited time to resolve potential crises.
She was uncertain of the requested report to which Mr Mphithi had referred, as the ARC was not present at that meeting. She needed clarity from the Department’s Director-General and Deputy Director-General.
She noted Members’ questions and guaranteed that the ARC would thoroughly reflect on the important inputs, especially on the issue of under-spending.
Mr Mphithi reiterated that his questions had not been answered, and repeated his questions again. He questioned why, although there were 30 financial misconducts that the ARC had just admitted, it had not mentioned any irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
Ms Sharif said that it really bothered her that there was a pattern that the Department did not implement the ARC’s recommendations, and that there was no one to ensure that proper consequence management measures would be taken against those officials who did not comply.
It was unacceptable that the Committee had not received the report that it had requested. She further reminded the ARC that the Committee had specific reasons for requesting reports -- they were not requested out of boredom.
The Chairperson agreed with Ms Sharif’s view, and said that those reports were important so that Members could know what recommendations the ARC had made, and assess whether the Department had implemented those recommendations.
Ms Masiko said it was unacceptable that what the ARC had red-flagged in Quarter One was still not being implemented by the Department. The Committee needed to know which officials were deliberately ignoring and not implementing those recommendations.
She said the issue of under-spending was very bad for the Department, and was indeed a huge concern across departments. She was concerned that no one had been held accountable for that whilst communities suffered on the ground for the lack of service delivery.
The Chairperson supported her colleagues’ view, and remarked that under-spending was a crime. She asked the Department how it could juxtapose its position that, on the one side, it was complaining about not having been allocated enough operating funds, while it under-spent on the other side. If the Department continued this under-spending trend, National Treasury would never take its plea of poverty seriously. The Department should bear in mind that while it under-spends, there were women suffering, young people unemployed, and persons with disabilities suffering. She recalled an incident that Members had observed on their oversight visit, where a child amputee had been without a wheelchair for an unacceptable amount of time, and the Department had not intervened to assist.
She questioned why the chief financial officer (CFO) had remained silent and not informed the Department in advance about its under-spending.
Mr Shongwe believed that the letter to which Members had referred was about the appointment of contract workers during COVID-19. He asked for the Committee’s permission to verify the report that Members had queried.
Adv Mikateko Maluleke, Director-General (DG), DWYPD, informed the Committee that there was no unauthorised expenditure within the period concerned, which was an improvement for the Department. She reminded Members that the Department had had so much unauthorised expenditure from 2010 to 2015. The reason the Department had not obtained a clean audit so far was because of its legacy issues, and not because of what it was doing now.
She recalled that she had informed the Committee in one of its previous meetings that the Department had had to source two additional personnel to assist the internal audit team in investigating all the irregular expenditure from previous years. Reporting on the progress of the investigation, she said that, in total, the Department had to investigate 127 cases of irregular expenditure which amounted to R13.1 million. National Treasury had also investigated 21 transactions involving irregular expenditure, which amounted to R3.3 million.
Although the culprits had been identified from the investigation process, Ms Maluleke said the Department could not dismiss someone because of something they had done in 2010 or 2015 regarding the Labour Relations Act. It could give warnings, either in oral, written or final forms. However, it still could not deal with all the issues from that period because the website had also crashed, which left 196 outstanding cases still unattended. The Department could get a clean audit only once it had finalised all these cases from those years. It had met all the criteria except the finalisation of those irregular expenditures. The Department had approached the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), retrieved 144 of the 196 outstanding batches, and still had 52 to go through. It was determined to retrieve any loss of funds if the situation allowed. In those scenarios where funds could not be retrieved or recouped, it would also approach National Treasury and the Standing Committee of Public Accounts (SCOPA) to allow for write-offs. She assured Members that most of the irregular expenditures were not about lost funds but rather not adhering to due processes.
Ms Maluleke described the actions it was undertaking to tackle the under-expenditure issue. Since the Department was responsible for monitoring and researching, it was now working with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), which had close working relationships with universities. It had been unable to spend its funds because its supplier chain management (SCM) got hardly any response when it advertises. With the approval of National Treasury, one of the Department’s strategies was working with the HSRC to get service providers. The other strategy was that the Department required each programme to submit a demand plan to monitor the demands and evaluate whether it could spend all the money.
Before Ms Maluleke could touch upon the disabled population issue, the Chairperson questioned whether the Department had hired the correct employees with the right skills, and suggested it should conduct an audit of its human resources. This was because there was a clear indication that the Department did not have the capacity to perform its own work, which was why it needed to recruit additional resources from the HSRC. She asked whether there were no people with similar skills in the Department, or if they were unable to produce quality work. Would sourcing the assistance of the HSRC be a permanent or a short-term solution?
Ms Maluleke acknowledged Members’ disappointment at the Department’s under-spending, and expressed similar sentiments. She said all the divisions in the Department had the same under-spending issue. The disability division had under-spending of R5.2 million, the youth programme R2.4 million, the MME programme had R3.1 million under-spending, and stakeholder coordination had an under-spending of R4.5 million. Because the under-spending was across the board, it was impossible for the Department to transfer funds from one programme to another.
She said the Department would have a saving of R10 million after its office relocation, and had requested permission from the Treasury to use that R10 million to build its capacity.
She acknowledged that the Department did not have the capacity to do the work that the HSRC was tasked to do. She had difficulty confronting her employees about this issue, because if she reprimanded them for not doing their work, they would start complaining and accuse her of bullying.
The Chairperson stressed the importance of departmental officials performing, and indicated that Members were there to assist and advise the Department, not to spite them.
The Chairperson acknowledged the presence of Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
Minister’s opening remarks
Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane greeted the Chairperson and Committee Members.
She recognised and welcomed the collaborative working relationship between the Committee and the Department. She was happy to inform the Committee of the Department’s activities and performance, and said it was not deliberately concealing information or shying away from being held accountable.
She assured the Committee that the Department was not "throwing money out of the house," as the whole world had borne the brunt of COVID-19. The relocation of its office was a measure to save money, because the building it was currently occupying had a slightly higher rental.
The Minister said it had to be acknowledged that the Department was progressing in its performance. The cause of its under-performance in this financial year was different to the one that had caused its under-performance last year, as it had resolved the challenges of the previous year.
She reminded the Committee that the Department was severely understaffed.
She invited the Committee to attend the "Gender-Based Violence and Femicide" summit. All the preparation for the summit had been done, and the report of the plenary would be shared with the Members.
With the support of the Committee, her Department successfully hosted three "Women in Economic Empowerment" summits. She emphasised the economic independence of women in the country. It was important to recognise that women’s issues were not only about GBVF, but also about encouraging and promoting women’s participation in the economic arena.
The Minister indicated that the Department sought to cultivate partnerships with other countries to assist persons with disabilities. She highlighted the example of South Korea, where its government proactively assisted disabled people in earning a living through arts and culture. She commented that that example had reduced her to tears. South Korea was willing to offer its experience to assist South Africa in this regard.
She acknowledged the Department's difficulty in tackling GBV issues during the pandemic, as GBVF was heightened during that period.
Members’ concerns on underspending and Minister’s poor attendance
Before the Department could make its annual performance report presentation, the DA's three Committee Members -- Mr Ngcobo, Mr Mphithi and Ms Sharif -- all expressed their concern over the Minister’s poor attendance at the Committee's meetings, despite the poor spending performance of her Department.
Mr S Ngcobo (DA) expressed his deep concern over the poor attendance of the Minister given her position as the political head of the Department. In her position, she was expected by Portfolio Committee Members to come to account for her Department’s performance. Many issues had emerged and been raised by Members in this meeting which required the Minister’s attention.
For instance, under-spending was a repeated problem that the Committee had flagged. It had been discussed in the meeting on 24 May, when the Minister had been absent. Her absence made it very difficult for Members to hold the Department and the Minister accountable.
Ms Sharif remarked that it was good to see the Minister in the Committee, because it had been a while since she last saw her. She expressed her disappointment at the Minister and the Department for their blame games. She commented that the Department had blamed various excuses, such as moving buildings, finding a new Director-General, a lack of capacity and COVID-19 to detract from its non-performance. As a Member of Parliament (MP), she herself did not tell her constituents that she could not go to work because of COVID-19. She reminded the Department that it was October 2022, and that everybody should be back at work.
She said the Department’s lack of political leadership was the cause of its stagnant performance, lack of accountability, and underspending in all of its programmes. She pointed out that the under-spending showed a lack of planning and strategies in the Department, and further emphasised that it should be aware that its mandate focused on dealing with people’s lives.
She asked the Department why Members had not been notified and received invitations to the GBVF provincial and national summits, and wanted to know whose responsibility it was. The Committee had raised the issue before, but the Department never took the Committee’s concerns seriously. It always gave the Committee one or two invitations after the issue had been mentioned, and then still maintained the status quo. She emphasised that the Minister and her Department should strive to cultivate a collaborative working relationship with the Committee.
Expressing her concern at the poor attendance at meetings of both the Minister and her Chief of Staff, she questioned whether the Minister was always so busy that she was unable to attend meetings, or if she merely trivialised those Committee meetings and did not consider them important.
Mr Mphithi endorsed his colleagues’ disappointment. He found it problematic that the R31 million underspending issue had not even been mentioned in the Minister’s opening remarks. He asked what challenges the Minister was experiencing, because R31 million could assist many people and do a lot of work.
He described the Department’s performance as a trend of failures. For instance, The Minister had remained silent when the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, had described one of eight victims who were raped in Krugersdorp "lucky" because she was raped only once, compared to other victims who were raped multiple times. He asked the Minister to make a statement in the Committee as to whether she agreed with her Cabinet colleague’s statement that women were lucky to be raped in this country.
He accused the Department of not assisting the people in South Africa. In Members’ oversight visits, the Committee had come across a disabled person who had not had a wheelchair for years. He recalled that the Committee had demanded consequence management from the Minister immediately after that, and the Minister had agreed to it, but so far, there had been no feedback on the issue.
Mr Mphithi expressed concern that the Minister had missed more than ten meetings. Given the importance of the oversight work, he refused to accept excuses that the Minister and departmental officials were attending meetings and hosting seminars.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane noted Members’ comments, and reminded the Committee of the Department’s mandate, which was not to provide material support but rather to play an advocacy role.
On the issue of rape, she said that once victims become survivors, they must be provided with the support to move on with their lives.
Responding to Mr Mphithi’s reference to the remark that Minister Cele made, her view was that the Department would respond to a matter or issue a public statement if there was a need to, but the President had already taken action by having designated five Cabinet Ministers to look into GBVF.
During the hardest time of COVID-19, she assured Committee Members that she and her departmental staff had worked through all the difficulties to do their jobs. Should it be necessary, she would not shy away from calling her Cabinet colleagues to fall in line on issues pertaining to her Department’s mandate.
She said that each province had its own provincial summit, and it was province’s responsibilities to invite political leaders to those summits. She was uncertain as to whether or not those invitations had been sent to political leaders in the provinces, as her observation was that some political leaders showed up at those summits and some did not.
She said the departmental officials would respond to the rest of the questions.
The Chairperson said that Mr Mphithi, Ms Sharif and Mr Ngcobo might not be aware of the latest developments regarding some of the issues they had just raised. The Minister had been present at the portfolio meeting, where departmental officials, led by the Deputy Minister of Public Works, were also present. Mr Mphithi had been overseas, Mr Ngcobo was not part of that meeting and Ms Sharif was sick. That meeting also covered the merger of Programmes 4 and 5, which related to persons with disabilities. The Committee had made a recommendation in that meeting that the Chairperson should write to National Treasury inviting them to a meeting where Treasury could explain why it had forced the Department to merge those two programmes.
On the relocation of the Department, the Chairperson explained that it had been delayed by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI). The DPWI had been at the Committee meeting led by its Deputy Minister to explain this issue.
The Committee shared the consensus that underspending was unacceptable and urged the Department to make improvements.
The Chairperson requested that Members allow the Department to make its presentations first. Members may make follow-up questions on the Minister’s attendance issue after it has made its presentation.
Mr Mphithi acknowledged the Chairperson’s request, but indicated that the Minister had not responded to his questions, despite being its political head. He pointed out that in terms of the Constitution, the Minister had a responsibility to account to the Committee on matters such as the R31 million under-spending in her Department, which was highly relevant to the meeting agenda.
He had noted the absence of the Department’s underspending in the Minister’s opening remarks, so he insisted on knowing what was going on in the Department, as this was his duty as an MP.
He again expressed concern over the Minister’s poor attendance at Committee meetings. He understood that the Minister had many other obligations, such as attending Cabinet meetings which sometimes may clash with Committee meetings, but felt that the number of meetings the Minister had missed was beyond the acceptable amount. This led to the Committee being unable to hold the Minister to a certain level of accountability.
He had noted that the Minister’s response seemed to suggest that the Krugersdorp incident was not her responsibility. He reminded the Minister that those issues fell within the ambit of the Department’s mandate. He asked the Department what support had been provided to those young women who had been raped.
Ms Sharif found the Minister’s response, shifting the responsibility for informing Members of the summits to the provinces, unacceptable. It was indeed true that provincial GBV summits were delegated to the provinces, but the national Department eventually had to account to the Portfolio Committee. The Department had to send only one invitation per event to one person, who was the Committee Secretary. The Secretary would then inform Members of those events. She emphasised that Members needed to know what happened in their own provinces.
Mr Ngcobo reiterated the point on the Minister’s poor attendance at the Committee meetings, and asked her to make an undertaking as to how she would change that.
Ms B Marekwa (ANC) understood the concerns of Members, and assured them that the issues they had raised had been dealt with in the Committee’s previous engagements with the Department. She confirmed the Minister’s attendance at the physical meeting with the DPWI. She suggested letting the Department go ahead with the presentation, and then Members may have an open one-on-one session with the Minister on the remaining issues.
Ms N Hlonyana (EFF) remarked that if the Minister could not take the Committee seriously, it was inevitable that no one would take her Department seriously, as the Minister herself had often complained about. If the Minister had some clashes with Committee programmes, she was certain that Members would be willing to adjust their own schedules to accommodate her. She indicated that since she joined the Committee, the Minister had never attended a meeting. She agreed with Mr Mphithi that Committee Members needed the political head to answer questions in Parliament to hold them accountable.
The Chairperson said she would allow the Minister to respond to those concerns, and then the DG must be allowed to make the Department’s presentation.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane reminded Members that she had also been an MP before she became a Cabinet Minister.
She acknowledged the severity of women’s issues, as GBVF was considered just as much of a pandemic as COVID-19. She f assured the Committee that there was not even one issue related to women that her Department had not attended to. If she could not come, she would always issue statements. She was due to present three memos to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
She clarified that she had made a statement on the Krugersdorp victims following that tragedy.
Her Department had made a call through the Presidency about the provincial summits, and, indeed, had made efforts to try to reach out to as many people as possible. She said the Presidential summit would be on 1 and 2 November.
She affirmed that she would not shy away from taking political responsibility for her Department’s failures. She recognised and emphasised the importance of partnerships between the Department and the Committee. She would always strive her best to attend Committee meetings, but asked Members to understand that sometimes she had to prioritise people on the ground over attending Portfolio Committee meetings.
The Chairperson pleaded with departmental officials responsible for diarising the Minister’s schedule to not set her up for failure, by including attendance at Committee’s meetings.
DWYPD annual performance report
The presentation covered the Department’s mandate, performance information, governance issues, human resource information and financial information.
For performance information, the Department briefed the Committee on its key achievements for all the programmes. The Department’s programmes were:
Programme 1: Administration
Programme 2: Social, transformation and Economic Empowerment Performance
Programme 3: Policy, Stakeholder Coordination and Knowledge Management (PSCKM) Performance
Programme 4: Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Programme 5: National Youth Development
The Department’s annual human resource oversight report had been audited and provided to the Committee. The Department informed the Committee of its eight vacant posts and which were ready to be advertised and filled.
Huge underspending was reported among all its programmes, with reasons provided.
(See attached documentation for details).
Ms Hlonyana asked the Department to provide more details about the disciplinary procedure involving two of its employees. As far as Members knew, one case had been finalised and the other was still in the process. She wanted to know more specifically about what had transpired in those two cases.
The Department’s had spent 95% of its budget, and 5% had remained unspent. Why had it been unable to achieve 100% spending?
Ms T Masondo (ANC) asked if the Department’s new mandate as a regulator was given effect in 2021/22, and to give evidence to support its claim.
She asked for an assessment of how the government had performed against various goals and targets related to women, youth and persons with disabilities contained in the national development plan (NDP), the medium-term strategic framework (MTSF), sustainable development goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063. She pointed out that only eight years remained to realise the SDG's five goals, so what should government do to achieve those goals?
She asked how the Department had ensured that the rights of women, youth and persons with disabilities were realised in 2021/22, and what it had done to regulate these rights.
She asked how it managed to have separate monitoring and evaluation functions, since it had produced an annual performance plan with a focus on monitoring, and one which focused on an evaluation of the empowerment of women, youth and persons with disabilities.
How accessible were the Department’s policy and framework to the general public, if they were not listed on the website?
She also enquired about the time frame for the tabling of the Wage Bill.
Mr Ngcobo remarked that the continuous under-spending on Programme 4 (rights of persons with disabilities) reaffirmed his view that the Department did not take this programme seriously and treated it more like an afterthought, despite the same challenges those people had to face every day. He wanted the Department to tell him what it was going to do to ensure that there would be no under-spending on Programme 4 in the current financial year. Had it made any recommendations based on the report that was produced under Programme 4, and when could the Committee expect to receive the report?
He asked the Department to give an indication of the current status of the Disability Rights Bill.
Ms Masiko enquired whether the national gender machinery had been established and was operational, as the targets in the report showed that the objective had been achieved.
She had noted the DG's explanation as to why she was constrained in taking action for fear of her employees running to the Portfolio Committee for protection. She disputed that explanation and reminded the DG that she was accountable to Parliament and thus must act decisively to deal with non-performers. The Committee would under no circumstances protect non-performers, as it regarded sending money back to National Treasury a great offence, because communities on the ground were in dire need of government services.
She pointed out that the key responsibilities of all the funded posts in the Department were research, monitoring and evaluation. It was problematic that it was under-spending while using consultants. Further, it also received another stream of funds from donors to do the work. Why was it funding data capturers, as the Committee had previously been told that the European Union (EU) was funding those posts?
Mr Mphithi expressed his concern at the R31 million underspending. He said the Department needed to justify its use of consultants, which led to work not being done and money not being spent in the Department. What were the officials who were employed to do those jobs actually doing?
He had also noted the DG’s remark that officials would run to Committee and complain about bullying. He asked her to indicate the specific incident of such a nature that had happened before.
The Chairperson shared her colleagues’ concern at the Department’s R31 million underspending and requested the Department’s CFO to immediately respond to the issue before she let other Members ask questions.
CFO’s response on Department’s under-spending
Ms Desree Legwale, CFO, DWYPD, said there were three main contributing factors to the Department’s under-spending.
- Firstly, there were COVID-19 restrictions which led to the management being unable to host stakeholder engagements physically. In terms of cost, most virtual engagements were much lower.
- Secondly, staff were not reporting to the office on a daily basis, so the operating expenditure was subsequently reduced as a result of that.
- Thirdly, the Department had been struggling to get implementers for its projects. For instance, it would advertise its projects in the market once, twice or even three times, but there would still not be anyone to carry them out.
Ms Marekwa asked whether the Department deliberately under-spent because of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 period. Departmental officials needed to understand that the government allocated money to departments for them to design programmes that could benefit communities. She urged senior departmental managers to ensure that funds went to their designated functions instead of not spending them and reverting the funds to Treasury. For instance, GBV was a real issue which required more work from the Department to provide further education to communities.
Ms Maluleke reiterated that the Department had achieved 95% of its targets. The under-expenditure stemmed from the shift of engagements from physical to virtual platforms, but it by no way meant that the Department had not achieved.
She confirmed the Department had finalised its strategy on information technology (IT) but still required the signatures from both herself and the Minister, and the approval of the ITC. That was why it was marked as not achieved in the report.
The Chairperson remarked that perhaps the Department’s communication division was not doing its job in effectively conveying its messages. She suggested that it needed to partner with eTV or radio stations to broadcast the GBV message. She commented that when incidents such as GBV happened, it did not help if the Minister’s statement sometimes did not even land on social media platforms such as Twitter.
Ms Maluleke responded that it was unfortunate that the work of the Minister and the Departmental officials were not seen, because they did try to make the public aware of those issues and important messages such as GBV. The Department even partnered with the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) and the Presidency to broaden its work's reach. She conceded that its communication strategy might be insufficient to reach a wider audience. She suggested providing the Committee with the Department’s plans to see if Members could make some inputs to improve the situation. The Department was in negotiation with the SABC radio stations about hosting talk shows covering topics such as economic empowerment, GBV, marriages, etc. It was also working with other departments to advance its messages and draw attention to its work. She suggested having a whole day for the Department to brief the Committee on its activities.
She said Members should be aware that Covid restrictions had still dominated much of the 2021/22 financial year, and should therefore be aware of the impact. For instance, the trip to the Commission on the Status of Women would usually cost about R2 million. There were many trips of such nature. The reduced travelling costs directly resulted in the Department’s underspending.
She was committed to ensuring that the Department would not only achieve all its targets, but would also spend all the funds where they should be spent.
She expressed her Department’s concern about achieving all the goals to which Ms Masondo had referred. However, National Treasury was developing instructions to try and mainstream gender-based budgeting in government departments’ frameworks. She highlighted the critical importance for other governmental departments to comply and implement those policies.
The Department would submit two pieces of legislation. One was the draft bill on the National Council for GBV, and another was the bill on Women and Empowerment.
She responded to Mr Ngcobo that the South African Law Reform Commission was working on the draft bill for the disabled population.
Acknowledging Mr Ngcobo’s interest in people with disabilities, she extended an invitation to an event which was due to take place on 8 December. The Department was hosting a summit on the economic empowerment of persons with disabilities. She conceded that the Department may have forgotten to extend invitations to Committee Members in the past, but would be more mindful in future.
The Department reported convening a session on the National Gender Machinery (NGM) framework on 21 September. A number of key documents were presented for relevant stakeholders to familiarise themselves with the content. Quite substantial inputs had emerged from the engagement, and had been made to strengthen the NGM. The Department would continue to host the event.
Ms Legwale listed a few projects which the Department had advertised, but had never received any feedback.
Mr Mbhazima Shiviti, Chief Director: Resource Management, DWYPD, elaborated on the details of the two departmental employees who had been disciplined. The employee whose case had been finalised had been dismissed. Upon the dismissal, the employee applied for arbitration, and the Department then applied for a review of the arbitrator. The case was currently at the labour court. The second case related to an employee who was deliberately disrupting the whole process, resulting in the Department being unable to proceed. It had therefore instructed its attorneys to advise the DG on the way forward for the employee. The causes for the disciplinary action in the first case were due to demotion due to restructuring, and the other was related to non-performance.
The Chairperson noted the response and urged the Department to take immediate action such as applying for exemptions, because those two cases were always included in the Department’s annual report.
Dr Bernice Hlagala, Chief Director: Youth Development, DWYPD, said that the Department’s evaluation study was being co-funded with the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME). It started the process again to advertise tenders because the previous process was flawed.
She highlighted the issue of the Department’s human resources (HR) lack of capacity, which constrained it from performing its work.
The meeting was adjourned.
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