In a physical meeting, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) met with the Portfolio Committee to present its 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan (APP). The Committee identified that an error of appointing five instead of six Commissioners needed to be rectified. The Committee expressed its disappointment at how the CGE’s APP was submitted late which was a breach of National Treasury terms on timeous submission. The Committee told the entity that it is also unacceptable that the APP was submitted to Parliament still with so many discrepancies. It was reminded that when an APP is submitted to National Treasury, it needs to be submitted according to its guidelines.
Reading through the report, the Committee expressed that it found it difficult to analyse the targets and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and that some of the outcomes did not make sense, because the manner in which the report had been written made it difficult to understand. The Committee questioned whether the CGE is focused or not because of the manner in which the report was submitted, with the first draft being received without being signed off and consisting of blank tables with no indicators. The Committee went on to explain that the shortcomings of the CGE would have a negative bearing on the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DPYPD) and the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), especially when it came to the budget vote.
The Committee told the entity that it should be informed if there is some sort of internal sabotage among its Executive Members, because it made no sense that the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) had written nothing in the report but instead allowed the CEO to write in the final document. It also said that even though there were management changes, every organisation must have internal control systems in place to ensure that deadlines are met and adhered to. The inability of a Chapter 9 institution to put together an APP and budget for Parliament to adopt is concerning, especially for the women in the country.
The CGE admitted that it takes full responsibility for all errors made by the organisation and has realised it is in trouble. Admittedly the report was of poor quality and some details were not reflected in it because they were foreign to Commissioners.
The Committee asked how it was possible that the report was submitted with errors even though the CGE was aware that many things were not right. The Committee also asked for clarity regarding the issue of the handbook as to which handbook was used for the allocation of Commissioners. The CGE told the Committee that budget errors had been corrected as soon as they were identified, so damage control was done to try and salvage the situation.
In its APP, the CGE acknowledged that it had dropped the ball in terms of professionalism, which was one of the values underpinning the work it does. It also highlighted that there were issues around the organisation's internal capacity and that many staff members on the system had been left without any upskilling despite the many years devoted to the organisation.
The Committee pointed out that the APP and report had done nothing but inconvenience it and said that some of the target indicators that had been left out, need to find their way back into the APP. The Committee also requested an explanation about the outstanding 20% vacancy rate, which means that there are unfilled vacancies. The Committee told the CGE that it is a full Chapter 9 institution and because of that, women in this country expect high levels of performance from it.
In conclusion, the Committee expressed that the issue of closed offices is unacceptable as the CGE is obliged to ensure that there are fully operational offices for citizens to gain access to the services offered by the CGE.
Opening Remarks by the Chairperson
Opening the meeting, the Chairperson suggested to Committee Members that everyone take the time to introduce themselves because some Members are new and not everyone in attendance is familiar with each other. She started introductions by introducing herself and Ms Kashifa Abrahams, the Committee Content Advisor. She also told the meeting that there are two researchers on the Committee, Crystal Levendale, who specialises in disabilities and women and Tasneem Matthews specialises in youth. The last to be introduced were Neliswa Nobatana, the Committee Secretary, Adv Herman Tembe, from the Office for Institutions Supporting Democracy and the Committee Co-ordinator. Thereafter she gave Committee Members the opportunity to introduce themselves.
After all introductions were completed by Committee Members and Commissioners present in the meeting, the Chairperson asked how many Commissioners were supposed to be present in the meeting. In response, she was told that there were supposed to be 11 and that Commissioner Ngoma-Diseko and Commissioner Deyi tendered an apology.
The Chairperson went on to welcome and congratulate all the newly appointed Commissioners. She indicated that there had been an error with the appointment of the five Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) Commissioners elected by the President – this was supposed to be six and this needed to be rectified. Highlighting that the CGE was short of one Commissioner, she said that whoever will be appointed to address the shortage needs to be appointed part-time and that this should be done according to the suggestion and adoption from the previous meeting. She also asked the CGE if the Portfolio Committee should put in a request to the Speaker of Parliament on its behalf or if the CGE would write directly to the Presidency.
The Chairperson told the Commissioners that the Committee believes they have concluded the handbook because it is one priority that needs to be concluded. She also alerted the Commissioners to the fact that there was an issue with Commissioner Botha, which needed to be finalised. Also, there is a need to understand processes and procedures of when and how to table reports to Parliament. The most critical thing to remember is that very report that comes to Parliament must be processed through plenary. It cannot be a report that will come through the backdoor without plenary having approved it. Going through plenary meetings means the report can be adopted and tabled to Parliament.
Committee unhappiness with CGE Annual Performance Plan
She also indicated that the Portfolio Committee was disappointed by the late submission of the Annual Performance Plan (APP), where the CGE had breached National Treasury terms on timeous submission, how she had to call the CGE to request that the APP be submitted and because of how senseless that APP was even after a teleconference meeting with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Parliament Researcher and Committee Secretary. The purpose of the teleconference was an attempt by the Committee to figure out the multiple errors in the APP after identifying discrepancies that did not follow the standard layout in the submitted report.
The Chairperson told the entity that it was unacceptable that the APP was submitted to Parliament still with so many discrepancies. She reminded the CGE that when an APP is submitted to National Treasury, it needs to be submitted according to its guidelines. However, when submitting to the Portfolio Committee, the APP must contain details and the entity’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), outcomes, inputs and targets must be written in another format. She went on to ask the CGE to explain why there was a late submission of the APP in terms of the National Treasury regulations, which detail when the APP must be tabled to Parliament. Why did it take a phone call to the deputy chairperson of the institution for the APP to be submitted? Why was the layout of the APP not followed, even after it was sent to the CEO to see how it should look?
Reading through the report, the Chairperson expressed that the Committee found it difficult to analyse the targets and KPIs and what made it even worse is that outcome four did not make sense at all. Not that the others make sense, but the manner in which the report has been written has made it difficult to understand. The Committee needs an explanation as to whether the CGE is focused on its work or not, because it is not the responsibility of the Committee to teach the CGE how to submit a report or when it needs to be submitted. The reason why the Chairperson went the extra mile in this regard is to prevent the CGE from being embarrassed and to ensure that the report comes before Parliament according to its programme, otherwise, the budget vote for the Department of Women and the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) would not be adopted. So the shortcomings of the CGE have a negative bearing on these two entities.
The manner in which the report was submitted has led the Committee to question whether the CGE is focused or even qualified to do the work it has been appointed for or if it has too much on its plate. It is not the Portfolio Committee's responsibility to teach or request for reports to be submitted. Should this pattern of work ethic continue, the Portfolio Committee will be unable to vote for the approval of the CGE’s budget before Parliament. The first APP draft received was not signed off and consisted of blank tables with no indicators.
The Chairperson said that the Committee should be informed if there is some sort of “internal sabotage” among the Executive Members, officials and the Heads of Units of the CGE. She also said that Senior Management at the CGE should account as to why there is no mention of Human Resources in the report, as one of the CGE’s core functions is Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) but this does not reflect in the target outcomes. Even the monitoring of police stations is no longer mentioned as one of the CGEs duties. The country faces a high rate of Gender Based Violence (GBV), yet police station compliance is not monitored nor reflected in the APP.
She said that the Committee is going to be especially harsh to Commissioner Ntuli-Tloubatla, who has been serving in the CGE longer than the newly appointed Commissioners and knows the procedure that is expected and needs to be followed. Addressing Commissioner Mazibuko, Commissioner Mogale, Commissioner Tloubatla and Commissioner Mothupi, the Chairperson asked how the plenary approved the document.
She pointed out that the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) had written nothing in the report and asked how the CFO allowed the CEO to write in the final document when he was available. The document was not proofread and there was no breakdown of fund allocations. Where was the CFO to proofread the document? Why did the Commissioners not look at the previous documents of the institution? She told Commissioner Ngomane that as a senior government official, he should have assisted as he knows better. If the Committee does oversight for the CGE, how is it going to do oversight with this type of report?
Ms F Masiko (ANC) welcomed the new Commissioners to the CGE. She said that the interview process was very exciting and that the Committee has faith that the new blood injected into the organisation will bring life to it and that it will have the strength to pick up and work. Given that it was the first contact meeting that the Committee was having [since recess], it was a great time to welcome the CEO of the CGE to the Committee.
She went on to say that the Portfolio Committee is being pushed into a corner because of the time it has had to allocate to deal with the APP because the time that the Committee has between the meeting and its budget vote debate is exactly a week. The Committee, as result, had contemplated not sending the CGE back because of how it cannot deal with what had been presented before it. However, the Committee understands that sending the CGE back will have a ripple effect on the budget of the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DPWYD) and the NYDA. The report presented makes the Committee question the capability of the team that was consulted during the drafting stages of the APP. It was also a great disappointment to be informed that there were delays with the submission of the document and that the CGE submitted a presentation instead of the actual document required.
Raising questions for the CGE to answer, Ms Masiko asked the Commissioners why the APP was tabled late because the organisation did not collapse, leading to a new establishment. Where is the continuity? There are staff members who have been with the entity for a while, meaning there should be continuity within the organisation. The basic government budget planning cycle and the reporting timeframes are well understood by everyone, especially accounting officers. Government has reporting timeframes as well as Parliament. All government employees have a collective responsibility to ensure that the indicated timeframes are adhered to including the submission of documents which was 31 March 2023.
The first draft was supposed to be compiled in August 2022, with the second draft submitted by November 2022, with the finalising of indicators done by January 2023. The CGE missed all these deadlines. Ms Masiko told the CGE that the Committee has various responsibilities and cannot be expected to do follow-ups on required documents. She shared that it is also understood that a letter was submitted about management changes beyond the control of the CGE. Management and Commissioners have the responsibility of submitting on time as it has done before. The issue is now the method of measuring the newly developed technical indicators. Had this Portfolio Committee been given enough time, then maybe this matter would have been resolved. The APP is bringing back what has been done in previous years and nothing has changed much, especially relating to the target indicators.
Ms N Sharif (DA) said that it must be registered that the Committee is highly disappointed in the CGE’s tabbed APP. Even though there were management changes, every organisation must have internal control systems because they are in place to ensure that deadlines are met and adhered to. It is common knowledge that an APP and budget must be submitted every year. Surely in all organisations, there must be a net in place that will catch the ball when it falls between the cracks and obviously, in the case of the CGE, there is not, which is very concerning.
She said that this then confirms to the Committee the internal collapse of the CGE. The inability of a Chapter 9 institution to put together an APP and budget for Parliament to adopt is concerning, especially for the women in this country. The Committee has contemplated sending the APP back and had to argue amongst itself as to why the meeting should sit, as it was commonly felt that the presentation was not a true reflection of the CGE mandate and expectations. The Department of Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) sends a framework that shows what the APP should look like, which is a 66-page guideline. The Committee is insulted by the copy-and-paste job done by the CGE on the presented APP.
Upon analysing the report, it was picked up that last year's and this year's report is a copy and paste, even to the point that the numbering is incorrect. For this reason, the Commissioners must account for how this report got past them. How did it get past the Commissioners that a report of this kind was brought to Parliament in the state that it is in? Ms Sharif said that it was unacceptable. The CGE has always been the best-performing entity; however, it has now gone from being number one to the last. Even the Department outperforms the CGE as a Chapter 9 institution. There is institutional memory which shows that it is not true that all Commissioners have been replaced. Who must be held accountable? The CEO signed off on an APP where the indicators showed three paragraphs dealing with the budget and no explanations of why there were changes in the KPIs. What must Parliament do with this information? The budget forecast is R94 million. Why is the forecast increase not done inside the CGEs plenary to reach targets? The previous and current programmes show new targets and no continuity for the previous APP. How is the Committee expected to measure the CGEs performance and also monitor the work done by the CGE? In previous years, an oversight to measure the South African Police Service (SAPS) was done in Mpumalanga and that target has been completely removed.
What does it mean for the work that the CGE has been doing for so long? What happens to it? How will State institutions be measured in dealing with GBV? All Commissioners know that SAPS is not doing what is required and GBV is raging with women being killed every single day. Nothing in the APP speaks to fighting GBV and the CGE cannot be taking services away. The fact that handling complaints, legal services, and workplace gender inequality hearings are not reflected in the APP is concerning. Why are there only tables and no details of the finance report in the APP? Considering the state of the country and what women go through can anger anyone but most importantly, the Committee, wants to know how the APP was approved.
Ms Sharif concluded that this was unacceptable to the Portfolio Committee.
Ms T Masondo (ANC) indicated that the Portfolio Committee was concerned and disappointed with how the tabled APP was drafted. She tasked why the APP was signed by the deputy chairperson and not the chairperson of the CGE. The compliance on lack of internal capacity for compliance affects the submission of the APP. Why did a six months transition of leadership affect the compliance of the organisation and the due date of submission which was March 2022?
Is there a working relationship between the CGE and the CEO or is there information that needs to be shared with the Committee in this regard? Does the CEO have other commitments that hinder his ability to fully function in this role? Is the CEO with the CGE on a full or part-time basis, with private commitments? She also said that the deputy should state if management changes beyond the organisation's control affected it. What was the purpose of submitting a revised strategic plan from last year? Also, how did the APP pass plenary with so many errors and without continuity from the APP of 2022 and the current APP of 2023/24? What informed the budget?
Ms A Hlongo (ANC) indicated that there were many errors in the APP, from the dates to the wording as mentioned above. Before the meeting, it was contemplated that the CGE be given more time however, because of how the Committee is pressed for time, the meeting was necessary. She asked the CGE to clarify the issue of the APP.
Ms B Marekwa (ANC) asked for clarity regarding the late submission of the APP. She said that the submitted report indicates no proofreading or cooperation amongst CGE colleagues, especially with the new CGE structure, which is rather disappointing. Upon appointment, it was identified that the Commissioners of the CGE have several different skills and expertise, however this is not reflected in the APP which is disappointing.
She put on record that the Committee does not want a repeat of CGE history because last time this happened, it had to assist in bringing the previous Commissioners to work together. The current APP shows many red flags and signifies that the CEO worked on it singlehandedly, and other Commissioners had no input on what needed to be submitted to Parliament.
Ms Marekwa requested cooperation from Commissioners for them to work together, as it is crucial for the task and responsibilities that the CGE has in monitoring several institutions like SAPS. As much as the meeting is being recorded, she said it would have been even more embarrassing if it was live on national television. The CGE must combine its responsibilities and skills for the benefit of its organisation so that people can recognise and associate with it. The Thuthuzela Care Centre in Mpumalanga turned out to be unconducive for people to be given the necessary services and that is why it is important for the CGE to put in the effort to work as one. She said that she hoped that the next time the CGE appeared before the Committee, there would be no finger pointing and that the CGE would produce different results than what is currently reflected.
Ms N Marchesi-Tarabella (DA) indicated how disheartening it was to discover how the CGE had regressed, considering that it would have been the best performing. With what was before them as a Committee it would make it difficult to vote that the CGE get more funding. However, it was important to understand the chain reaction of the APP because that will indicate to the Committee who drafted the APP and who it ended with. What was most important was to understand who approved the APP and if a blanket approach was used. If that were the case, then the Committee will not be able to diagnose the actual reason why the CGE is where it is at the moment. Even as new Members of Parliament, there must be accountability and there is no time for learning. The CGE must be able to tackle problems utilising every chance given.
The main concern is, however, with the CEO’s responsibility and whether she has another job or is working by herself, particularly because it does not make sense that the guidelines were not followed. The level of unprofessionalism indicates a possible level of sabotage within the institution or negligence in the work coming from the CGE, which is something to be rectified. Are there problems in the CGE in terms of employees? Has the auditor left the CGE without the Committee’s knowledge? If that is the case, then it must be informed through a report to bring the Committee into confidence for a better understanding.
Ms N Sonti (EFF) asked who accounts for the errors of the CGE and why the Portfolio Committee is expected to go for budget voting when everything is falling apart.
Ms M Khawula (EFF) indicated that the Committee had previously celebrated the achievements of the CGE and used to complain that the budget allocation was insufficient. However, now it is confused with these results. Women in the Committee had faith in the CGE thus, it remains the responsibility of the Committee to inform the CGE on its errors and mistakes because it runs a very strategic Department that deals with the highest number of murders, violence and the rights of those who are not recognised.
There are serious, painful issues that affect the lives of South Africans happening in the Eastern Cape. With the presence of the CGE, South Africa has hope that the situation will change and all culprits will be brought to book, but with the level of incompetence shown, the Committee is disappointed. The question is why the CGE has not continued with the targets that it had before. Why the jump from that to the new targets? If this is ignored, it means that the incompetence will continue. Perhaps the CGE has been overpraised to the point where its work ethic have become irrelevant. Is it because the chairperson was sick that the Deputy Chairperson signed the documents? If this is the case, then it must be reported to the Committee.
Response by CGE Chairperson
Ms Nthabiseng Sepanya-Mogale, Chairperson of the CGE, said that before she gives the CEO and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) the opportunity to proceed with the presentation, she would like to place on record that as the chairperson of the CGE, she takes full responsibility of all the errors that the organisation had made. She also admitted that the CGE has realised that it is in trouble. The day before the meeting, the CGE had an “unpleasant” meeting with the CEO to discuss and address issues that the Portfolio Committee had raised.
Ms Sepanya-Mogale again said she took full responsibility for pushing issues aside until she assumed office. This is also what contributed to her not signing the report. She said that she was there and present but because of all the confusion about things that should have been done before she came on board, she took it for granted that presenting otherwise may lead to misrepresentation. She said she was “blindsided” because she did not understand when and where she came in as the chairperson.
In a three-hour meeting with the CFO, some issues were raised, and both new and old Commissioners stated that there are concerned about the issues raised during this deliberation, which were similar to what had been raised by the Portfolio Committee. Once again, Ms Sepanya-Mogale admitted that as the team leader, she takes full responsibility that the report was of poor quality and that some details not reflected in the report were foreign to some Commissioners so much so that they were removed from the report. Over and above all of that, the report was submitted late. Having realised the trouble at hand, the CGE has admitted that the road has been filled with potholes; however, now was the time to chase deadlines rather than focusing on the depths of correcting the actual report. The CGE has set up a leadership system within the organisation with a full office component made up of the chairperson, deputy chairperson and Commissioner Mazibuko, who will be setting aside areas of focus with different roles of responsibility.
One of the tasks that lie ahead, which is in line with the handbook and Act, is the supervision and support of the CEO which will lead to weekly meetings, because the CGE, as a state institution, weekly meetings are the bare minimum requirement. In the meeting that took place, Commissioners asked about some of the things that the Committee had asked because they were also able to pick up the gaps. The chairperson explained that what has happened is not necessarily about the gaps inside and the organisation has been honest with itself regarding that. A lot of work has been done with the new Commissioners, including a two-day induction, which took them through everything. Over and above the induction, the CGE has finally deployed Commissioners to provinces and has also started going to the provinces. The CGE has also planned provincial induction meetings and so far, it has only had one in Gauteng because of travel challenges in the organisation. Commissioners have also been allocated to sub-committees as the CGE Act prescribes. Chairpersons have been appointed to those committees and the new Commissioners are heading some sub committees.
Ms Khawula interjected to point out how the chairperson said that she had seen that so many things were not right. The question then is who submitted the APP. Why were the errors in the report not fixed by the CGE prior to the meeting with the Portfolio Committee? What was the CGE thinking when it decided to bring the APP before the Committee, knowing it was not right? How could the chairperson and the CEO approve an APP that is not right?
She said that the Committee is not a rubber stamp for the CGE. Next thing, money will disappear with the organisation under the chairpersons’ watch because even if she sees that things are not right, she will be unable to correct it.
Ms Khawula told the CGE that Committee Members are not only Members of Parliament but also representatives, which means that they deal with serious issues such as service delivery, water shortages, rape and GBV which affect South Africans on a daily basis. For that reason, the Committee cannot entertain the games of the CGE.
Ms Marchesi-Tarabella asked for clarity regarding which the CGE used handbook for the allocations of Commissioners assigned to different provinces and the assignment of responsibilities, because, according to her knowledge, the current handbook was a draft and had not been finalised.
She also asked the Committee Chairperson to give the CGE a chance to proceed before Members of the Committee pose any further questions. She also said there should also be a level of preparedness on the side of Parliament in checking the feasibility of venues before meetings are held.
Ms Sepanya-Mogale indicated that the budget had been corrected by the CGE as soon as errors were identified. The challenges that the CGE identified were more than the ones presented to the Portfolio Committee and it had tried to salvage the situation, which then means that it was not a matter of negligence on its part because damage control was done. To correct the situation and put the CGE back on track, it has arranged a meeting for Thursday, 11 May 2023, for a pre-strategic planning workshop with the Commissioners, because the CGE was approaching the end of its five-year term which started in 2019, and going into the next five years. The purpose of the meeting is to say to Commissioners, especially the new ones, that it is time to bring on board their visions and views in relation to the mandate of the CGE.
The CGE has a handbook signed and adopted on 13 February 2014. It is currently being used as a guideline and will remain active until the renewable process is complete or another handbook is introduced. The previous chairperson in 2017 said that because the handbook was about to be finalised, the new Commissioners should be given a taste of the new handbook, and that is where the problem began because everyone wanted to go back to the drawing board. Again in 2019, when new Commissioners were brought into the CGE, the then chairperson again said let the Commissioners be given a bite and the delay was caused by the to and fro. At the first plenary session with the current cohort of Commissioners, which was held on 24 April 2023, it was decided that the CGE will not be going back to the issues of the handbook because it is ready. The foreword has been drafted and everything else has been done. All that is left is for the handbook to be circulated to the new Commissioners. The CGE has advised that the new Commissioners will read the handbook and advise of the t’s that have not been crossed and the I’s that have not been dotted. In a years’ time, the CGE will consider how some things in the handbook can be reviewable otherwise it will never be finished because every group wants to have a bite. It will have a handbook when it comes back to appear before the Committee.
At this time, the CGE now applies the handbook for guidance and has asked for advice on how to review the handbook and in the next meeting with the Committee, it will bring the handbook along. The chairperson said that she apologises and is giving assurance that operations at the CGE will return to normal and that the leadership was committed to ensuring that the CGE returns to its former glory.
The chairperson then handed over to the CEO to proceed with the presentation.
Commission for Gender Equality 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan & Budget
Ms Phelisa Nkomo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), said that she shares the same sentiments as the chairperson regarding the poor way in which the preparation of the APP has happened. She also apologised profusely for the poor standard and quality in how the organisation has managed its work. When the APP was sent, she received a thumbs up from the Parliamentary Committee confirming that it was correct; there was no indication that more work needed to be done on it.
Going through the eight values underpinning the work that the CGE does, Ms Nkomo acknowledged that the CGE has dropped the ball in terms of professionalism, which is one of the organisation's values. This has caused the entity to do some introspection to ensure that it meets this value because it is quite important. She said that the general remarks she would like to make before getting into the presentation are that one of the key things an observation on her end made when she took over was the diagnosis that the focus needs to be on institution building. The questions that Members of Parliament were asking were quite legitimate and rational.
There is an issue around internal capacity of the organisation. This also raises two questions about institutional memory. The first question being how is it possible that three and a half months of holding a position can warrant the submission of incorrect documents, when in fact, management should have been consulted before the documents were submitted. This speaks directly to the organisational culture and ethos. Part of the ethos that is promoted is making sure that the organisation needs to be transparent and consultative and that those in management really participate in decision-making. Management change is embedded in institutional development, which is a journey and part of that journey means that organisational culture and some development issues need to be examined. Ms Nkomo confirmed that there are staff members on the system that have been left without any upskilling despite how they have devoted years and years of their time to the organisation.
The second point has to do with the foundation of CGE’s. Ms Nkomo agreed with Committee Members that there seems to be no convergence in the CGEs targets or proper sequencing from the previous years. This has to do with the fact that there is no social science or strategic thinking around several of the work that it does. Several departments do not have strategies that drive the work that must be done. The CGE lacks research strategies, public education strategies, and public management strategies. These documents really help as it is a foundation that not only guides the work that is done but also assists in meeting the continuation of the organisation, which is one of the things that the organisation is working on. The other is the rebuilding of human rights organisational culture, where people fully understand that a Chapter 9 institution is not only a public institution but also an institution that needs to make sure that it contributes to the meeting of the human rights of the people in this country and currently that culture does not exist.
Building brand equity is equally important. Part of it is probably that it is one Chapter 9 institution with an immense mandate concerning gender equality because it is in charge of men, women, the LGBTQIA+ community and any other vulnerable group in society. The CGE really needs to be a gender setting as far as the type of gender equality that society see is concerned.
Ms Nkomo told the Committee that another issue that it is grappling with is that of being under-resourced. Generally, the gender justice space has been under-resourced for the longest time. In essence, what it is looking at internally is exploring the idea of aping into other sources of income without compromising institutional independence. Another important thing that the CGE needs to focus its attention on is the need to recruit staff. From an internal point of view, there is an expectation for the CGE to rise to the occasion in as far as gender equality issues are concerned. The CGE is also in need of a dedicated persona.
CGE outcomes were based on enabling a legislative environment for gender equality to be promoted through education and information that will foster public understanding and also identify key issues affecting gender equality. The commitment of the CGE has always been to move to 90% when attending to complaints. Administration staff is utilised to ensure that indicator goals are achieved before the legal officer handles the complaints. Gender mainstreaming and public outreach in municipalities will also be done for intensive support to achieve strategic planning. Not only should the filling of vacancies be continuous but the training and development of Commissioners also needs to be highly considered.
Dr Antoinette Ngwenya, Chief Financial Officer, CGE, indicated that the report will be brief because of the errors that the Committee had mentioned that need to be rectified. Looking at the allocation for the next three years of R100 million and the new budget of R94 million, Dr Ngwenya said that the CGE had tried its level best to plan in an efficient manner, considering the projects that are in the pipeline. She confirmed that R94 million had been allocated for the upcoming financial year. The CGE is at the end of its strategic planning stages and has provided a breakdown of resource allocation. Office accommodation is also included in the breakdown because of how the CGE has struggled to secure office space in different provinces; however, it continues to engage with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) to address all challenges and delays. Legal fees and litigation amounted to R930 000 and audit fees R2.1 million, including internal and external audits.
See attached for full presentation
The Chairperson said that the Members of the Committee had spoken, and the CGE will hopefully understand the seriousness of the matter at hand. The critique from the Portfolio Committee is to ensure thorough work and oversight to mould the Commissioners better. The reports that were expected were not just for Parliament but for public consumption and for South Africans to measure the CGE upon the substance and quality shown in its reports. She said that even the foreword in the report did not represent the new chairperson of the CGE and the organisation as a whole can attest to that.
The CGE APP and report have done nothing but inconvenience the Portfolio Committee. A submission of the report was made on 3 May 2023 and the revised document was later submitted on 6 May 2023. By 1 March 2023, the new chairperson had been appointed and by 31 March 2023, the report was supposed to be signed by the chairperson before being tabled to Parliament. The Chairperson said the Committee would grant the CGE time to rectify the current report and ensure all role players participate in the compilation. However, the current report will be adopted for the sake of the parliamentary programmes.
The budget must be passed by Parliament however, for that to happen, the CGE is expected to return with a proper presentation with the correct targets. The entire committee of the CGE, together with the CFO, should allocate funds accordingly and explain the targets and vacancies broadly. An explanation of the outstanding 20% vacancy rate, which in the previous year was 5%, should also be explained in future. If the APP shows a 20% vacancy rate, then it means that there are vacancies that are unfilled. The targets must make sense to the CGE and to anyone analysing the report. Currently, what the report is reflecting is that there are many unfilled vacancies. The vacancy for the Head of Legal should also be filled and human resources and staff establishment must be clearly outlined. Also, there must be details about the category of vacancies that are not filled.
On 23 May 2023, the Chairperson told the Committee and the CGE that there would be a debate on the budget and now that it is known that the CGE is not getting adequate funding from National Treasury, it is fully liable for the little amounts received over the years based upon the amount requested. Those good programmes that were on the APP and have been removed, must be put back. The Portfolio Committee has tried its level best to display its satisfaction and will allow the copy-and-paste APP.
The Chairperson addressed the CEO, reminding her that she is the CEO of a Chapter 9 institution and that anytime she appears on any platform, she must remember that she is the CEO of the CGE. She also indicated that the CEO should not attract unnecessary scrutiny from other people and that it is important to play the role of a public figure as the CEO of the CGE and separate other tags or positions assumed to be outside of the CGE. She also told the Commissioners the same applies to them as public persons. In concluding, the Chairperson said that CGE should perhaps say how much time it requires to rectify the errors in the current report so that it can bring a corrected version of the APP before the Committee.
Ms Sharif indicated that she would like to touch on the opening remarks made by the chairperson of the CGE, specifically on the late submission of the APP. Addressing the chairperson, she said that upon her realisation that there was lack of strategy, it was her responsibility to cover that shortfall and identify what implementation would be put into place to ensure that the lack of strategy does not happen. How the Committee balances travelling and CGE representation on an internal platform does if the issue is time taking into account the time considered, especially when working overtime on weekends. Several steps can be taken to ensure that the APP is submitted on time. The Committee cannot pass the buck when it comes to work being done and put the blame on organisational culture and lack of skills on staff. This is not acceptable at an operational level.
The CGE is a full Chapter 9 institution, and because of that, women in this country expect high levels of performance and not just the Portfolio Committee. The presentation in the budget forecasting was low and what is the allocation rationale behind that? Speaking to the different numbers in the presentation and the APP forecast, Ms Sharif asked why the APP was a copy and paste of the wrong figures. The entire budget was confusing, especially regarding amounts allocated in three different places. Also, the finance report was missing. She asked what consultancy is for. And why is there a large amount of money being spent on it? Is there a lack of skills within the CGE which would explain the high vacancy rate? She also asked why consultants were being paid so much for work that could be done within the organisation. What is the plan to ensure more litigation? Upon looking at the APP, not much work is being done in terms of litigation, yet the question was asked in Commissioner interviews. In the CGE, there are lawyers and the chairperson herself yet litigation is not a core component in the APP. The cost of litigation is an amount of R930 00 which is unaccounted for in the budget.
Ms Sharif said that the sought clarity regarding the suspension of the internal auditor which was never mentioned to the Committee and the progress thereof. The provision of services in moving towards evaluating and monitoring service strategy needs to be looked at. There is a lack of target explanation and compliance monitoring which has been removed and needs to be brought back into the APP.
She said it is difficult for the Committee to monitor the CGE just by looking at the APP because some indicators have been removed and reasons for the removal have not been stipulated. Reports on compliance with international protocol have also been removed. The chairperson was meant to report on this target, yet it is not reflected in the APP. Monitoring of compliance at a regional level is not reflected on the APP as a core function of the CGE. The removal of reporting and dialogues in the United Nations (UN) looks bad for the country. The targets are not measurable and do not speak directly to the functions of a Chapter 9 institution. With how the APP stands now, budget voting will become impossible. Therefore the CGE must consider the recommendation of the Committee and implement them. Hopefully, this will be the last time the CGE gives a presentation, not an APP.
Ms Khawula asked why such a huge amount was paid to an external consultant. She asked why the APP was submitted in May when it was supposed to be submitted in March. The CGE has no offices in certain provinces and does not consider the societal demand for its services. How do offices close with management being there? Does the CGE even understand the pains and sufferings of black South Africans, especially in the Western Cape, where oppression is rife? She expressed that she hopes that one day the CGE will realise this and see even the houses built for the people of the Western Cape. There are 15 people in each household and these people are subjected to rape. The situation is even worse at police stations. She was of the opinion that the CGE neglects its responsibility and does not do follow-ups and monitoring. That is why the Western Cape branch is closed and having those offices be closed does not assist the Portfolio Committee.
Ms Marchesi-Tarabella indicated that in most political parties’ justification is done on why certain portfolios must exist and with the CGE, there is a concern. Considering the high rate of GBV in this country and how the numbers are constantly increasing, it is a call for the CGE to introspect. Also, referring to the SAPS indicator, she asked why the indicator has been removed because it is the core function of its work. The CGE and the Committee seem to not be on the same page regarding critical issues. Why is the CGE under budgeting? What are the steps in APP drafting and who signs? Why is the vacancy rate 20% and not limited to below 80%? Were the new commissioners provided with the latest handbook? Lastly, for better understanding, she requested that the CGE provide an organogram of its organisation with names attached to the functions.
Ms Masiko asked about tenders issued by the CGE, which closed in July 2022, where it invited suitably qualified suppliers to participate in a public tender process for the appointment of attorneys for the provision of legal services. What were the implications around the legal standing of the CGE and the legal practice counsel and the recognition of the CGE s legality? Where does this leave the legal standing of the CGE? Output indicators of monitoring and annual targets of SAPS have been taken out of the APP and when police stations in Masoni (sp) and Mpumalanga were visited, monitoring was done upon those indicators, however, they are not reflected in the APP, making the monitoring process difficult. She asked that an explanation be provided.
Ms Masondo indicated that the meeting was derailing away from the consequences of 2019, where the Committee had expressed that it was unpleased with some of the work done by Commissioners. The CGE has shown no strategy to operate among itself versus the administration. Before submission, Commissioners must sit and agree on performance targets in the financial year; however, this did not happen. The way in which the CGE is being run is disastrous. From an administrative perspective, the chairperson and CEO must meet before concluding the APP for presentation to the Portfolio Committee or any document that will be presented publicly; otherwise, the public will assume that the Committee hires incompetent Commissioners.
She told the CGE that Commissioners working from home is unacceptable because it is not the objective of the organisation to have Commissioners working from home. How will Commissioners direct victims of GBV who desperately need the services of the CGE from home? The CGE has no forward planning; it waits for disaster before acting. What is the thinking behind the decisions taken by the CGE? Some of the removed indicators have not been expressed in the outcomes, and considering that they are not even in the APP, how will they be monitored? What is the role of the CGE at the women’s caucus? The monitoring and evaluation indicators of the CGE must reach as far as municipalities and private organisations to ensure gender equality in every sphere of government. Where is the budget for monitoring, if it is not reflected in the APP? How is the CGE going to assist the Committee with public participation as part of its awareness system? How is the CGE going to reach places where it is not visible? The relationship between Commissioners is disappointing and should not put the Committee in a position to regret and question whether the right people were hired. It is the role of the Committee to monitor the CGE and so it must receive proper planning on how it will operate going forward as a Department.
Ms Hlongo indicated that the CGE’s problem was report writing and not incompetence as far as work ethic is concerned. She then asked what role the Commissioners play in giving effect to the entire APP and what plan is in place to rectify the errors identified at the meeting. How will Commissioners account in this regard? What expectations does the Portfolio Committee have of Commissioners within their constituencies and provinces in the current financial year?
Ms Marekwa said that the Commission has been granted time to go and correct the presentation and the Committee cannot let women down, particularly with care centres like Thuthuzela that remain important. She said that Commissioners need to find a way of bringing that back into the APP as one of its targets. The copy and paste must also be corrected. Pages four and seven of the APP are identical to the 2022/23 APP with some targets remaining the same. Clarity must be provided as to why some targets were removed. The Auditor General (AG) has made recommendations for the CGE; however, the question is how the CGE will ensure that these recommendations find their way into the APP. Some of the instruments used in South Africa are used internationally such as benchmarking, therefore it is a recommendation that those targets find their way back into the APP. Unity in the way the CGE works is important.
Ms Sonti indicated that the CGE has a vision and mission with a brand promise and values to evaluate gender equality through policy development. The CGE is inactive in rural areas and is not trustworthy. She said that in 2021, she filed a complaint about her children who had gone missing, but the CGE did not assist. She eventually found her children by herself. This was an indication that she was not the only one who did not receive good service from the CGE, because most communities were complaining as well. Her issue was not attended to because the CGE could not assist. She was just happy that she managed to find her children by herself even without the assistance of the CGE.
The Chairperson indicated that there were reports of Commissioners who were giving the CGE problems. She said that the said Commissioner should be summoned to the Committee and if she does not attend, then she should be removed because that sort of behaviour is unacceptable. She told the meeting that there are laws against smoking during meetings; it is just not permitted. Going forward, the CGE should rectify the errors that have been pointed out and return with a proper presentation. The issue of the closed office is unacceptable as the CGE is obliged to ensure that there is an office for the citizens in Cape Town. How is the CGE getting monthly reports, with staff still working from home post-COVID? Is the CGE getting value for money? What is the Committee paying the CGE for? It must go and do the right thing because there is room for improvement. The CGE is fortunate enough to have been invited by the people of Delft otherwise, it would have no activity.
In conclusion, she said that the Western Cape offices of the CGE were approached by the landlord, who said that it would no longer be leasing the building; however, there is communication with other Departments to assist with securing office buildings in all provinces.
The meeting was adjourned.
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