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JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
7 June 2001
COMMISSION ON GENDER EQUALITY: ANNUAL REPORT
Chairperson : Adv J De Lange
Documents handed out:
Annual Report 2000
Copy of questions from Standing Committee on Public Accounts to CGE Chief Executive Officer
Copy of the written reply from CGE Chief Executive Officer
Commission on Gender Equality website: http://www.cge.org.za
The Chief Executive Officer of the Commission on Gender Equality, Mr Zith Mahaye, and the Parliamentary Officer, Ms Fatima Seedat, presented the Commission’s financial statement for the year ended 31 March 1999. The Committee questioned the salary increase for the staff, and the fact that most of the money went towards infrastructure and salaries, rather than projects. The Chief Executive Officer assured the Committee that the staff was in fact paid strictly according to the tenets laid out by the Public Service Commission, and that the salary levels were of a lower level than some other Commissions. The Chairperson was concerned that there was no budget allocated for expanding offices to other provinces.
The presenting team was introduced as Mr Z Mahaye (Chief Executive Officer) and Ms F Seedat (Parliamentary Officer).
Adv de Lange explained that accountability falls under the Committee as its portfolio is the Justice Department, but suggested that the CGE try and meet with other Committees. The Medium Term Expenditure Framework document for the Committee had been submitted but not yet copied for each member.
Mr Mahaye appreciated that the CGE had been called to account in that the Justice Committee acted as "a check and balance" for the CGE. He added that it was possible to illustrate CGE’s progress but said that the documents, other than the 1998/9 financial statements, were not yet audited and hence were not for public consumption. The up-to-date financial information was provided to keep the Committee updated.
Adv de Lange emphasized this point and asked the Committee members to respect this, and not release any details to the media.
Mr Mahaye read from the Report of the Auditor-General on the Financial Statements of the Commission on Gender Equality for the year ended 31 March 1999 (included in the CGE Annual Report 2000).
Adv de Lange asked CGE to explain the Annual Report. Further, he asked where the donor funds came from.
Mr Mahaye replied that the donor funds were from DFID, USAID and the Mott Foundation amongst others.
Adv de Lange asked how CGE received permission to obtain donor funds.
Mr Mahaye replied that the CGE has to account to the National Treasury for any donor funds received. However these funds had been received prior to the legislation that required all donor funds go directly to Treasury. Mr Mahaye continued to read from the Financial Statements contained in its Annual Report 2000.
Adv de Lange said that he disliked the fact that the statement reflected a surplus and not a deficit. He asked what mechanisms had been established to spend the money.
Mr Mahaye explained that the CGE incurred a surplus in 1998, which was its first year of operation. Government funding had been budgeted for, but not the donor funds. The CGE is almost balanced at this point.
Adv de Lange asked if there was a monthly check on finances.
Mr Mahaye replied that the CGE submits a monthly statement but in fact tracks its finances on a daily basis.
Adv de Lange asked if the CGE could provide figures at any given time.
Mr Mahaye replied that the CGE was up to date with its financial figures.
Adv de Lange asked if the establishment expenses in the income statement could be explained.
Mr Mahaye said that these expenses included the basic infrastructure and costs paid for by the government, and that the allocation is not as much for projects. The last seven items under Expenses are projects, everything else on the list consists of infrastructure costs.
Adv de Lange asked how the CGE operated and whether women lodge complaints with the CGE. He asked whether there was a unit set up specifically for this task.
Mr Mahaye replied that there was a Complaints Unit. A breakdown of complaints received by women appeared in the forthcoming CGE Annual Report.
Adv de Lange asked if the complaints were mainly about maintenance.
Mr Mahaye explained that the CGE only took on complaints about maintenance if they were gender-related, otherwise they were passed on to the relevant institutions. "Gender-related" includes situations where a woman claims maintenance from the courts and her complaint is not given serious consideration on suspicion that she is a women. For example if her case docket is mislaid, or she is told that she must track down the errant partner herself. In these circumstances the CGE steps in.
Adv de Lange asked how many offices the CGE has.
Mr Mahaye answered that the head office was in Gauteng. Cape Town has a parliamentary office, and KwaZulu Natal, Free State and Northern Province each have an office.
Adv de Lange pointed out that only four provinces have offices. He asked if there were any plans to establish offices in the other provinces.
Mr Mahaye explained that the CGE is in the process of debating the process of how best to proceed with a rollout plan as laid out in the blueprint submitted to National Treasury in 1998. Generally it was felt that an incremental approach would be best.
Adv de Lange asked if the CGE had a costed plan.
Mr Mahaye replied that it was not yet at that stage. Adv de Lange said that he would very much like to see a costed plan. He believes that this is urgent.
Mr Mahaye explained that they could provide a plan, but that it was not yet ready for implementation.
Adv de Lange asked how many staff are available to deal with complaints.
Mr Mahaye answered that the staff levels were skeletal at this point, especially in provinces. The Cape Town office has three administrative staff members and two commissioners available to take complaints and interact with Parliament. For example, these staff were instrumental in assisting with the formulation of the Municipal Infrastructure Amendment Bill.
Adv de Lange asked how big the other offices were.
Mr Mahaye replied that the KwaZulu Natal office had three administrative staff and two commissioners, the Northern Province had two administrative staff and one commissioner, the Free State had one administrative staff member and one commissioner, and the head office had about 30 administrative/professional staff and five commissioners. Eastern Cape has one new commissioner and CGE is setting up a satellite office there.
Adv de Lange asked if these were new commissioners.
Mr Mahaye replied that they were. Adv de Lange asked if that was why they were not present and Mr Mahaye confirmed that this was the reason for their absence. He pointed out that the Committee had specifically asked that the CEO come to present. Adv de Lange apologised.
The Chair said that he preferred to see a breakdown on salaries. To which, Mr Mahaye replied that the information was in the documents.
The Chair was concerned that R3, 583 289 was spent on administrative staff. He repeated that he wished to see a breakdown, to see if there were any incongruencies.
Adv de Lange asked how much of the 2000 budget was used for projects.
Mr Mahaye explained that it was a sad reality that a greater part of the money for any new project is spent on salaries and infrastructure. But staff experience is rising and instead of employing staff, their experience can be used on different projects. The CGE still incurs high maintenance costs, however, due to IT equipment being outdated.
Adv de Lange asked how this was possible considering the CGE is still young.
Mr Mahaye explained that the government had bought them outdated equipment to begin with, which often breaks down. They have recently been given the green light to acquire new IT equipment.
Adv de Lange commented on the fact that the equipment was about to be replaced, and asked who had made such a stupid decision in the first place.
Mr Mahaye said that the tender was issued through the Department of Justice which approved the supplier.
Adv de Lange asked Mr Mahaye to please find out so that the actual person could be brought to the Committee to explain this decision. Mr Mahaye said that he would do so.
Adv de Lange commented that most of the money not spent on salaries appeared to be directed towards advertisements in the media. He asked if he was correct in his assumption.
Ms Seedat said that most of the money goes to raising awareness and a significant portion goes to research on policy. Hence Adv de Lange’s assessment was not wrong.
Adv de Lange said that the Committee had visited 4 provinces and two courts. There is a niche for the CGE to help women in these courts. There is a 1000% increase in domestic violence cases brought to court. Courts used to deal with 2 or 3 a month and now deal with 2000 a month. Adv de Lange had personally visited the Kempton court. It costs many women more than R7 in each direction for public transport to "this horrible little court". He said that the Committee should be aware of this. There are NGOs that help women to fill in forms, these NGOs should be galvanized. The National Maintenance Forum does almost all the work. Further, he said that the CGE could physically assist individuals and bring matters to the Committee. In this way, Adv de Lange contended that the CGE is the link between concrete problems on the ground and the Committee.
Ms Seedat commented that in terms of a complaints mechanism, the CGE had started with a rudimentary complaints handling system. In late 1999 they had begun a relationship with the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, who had helped them develop a new system, which is only now becoming operative. This system allows CGE to pick up serious problems. The CGE wants to do more than respond to individual complaints but to pick up systemic problems. Because the CGE is such a unique organisation, there is no benchmark for them. The Australians have been very helpful, and it is an ongoing relationship.
Mr Mahaye said that it would be very interesting for the Committee to visit the day after CGE has been on air and after meetings with NGOs because the number of public complaints increases immediately. He added that CGE does not have access to a sophisticated system. The CGE is very cautious when responding to complaints about department because they clearly do not have sufficient resources to implement gender-sensitive legislation. The CGE has had people coming to them bleeding, who have been assaulted after leaving the court. The victims had been followed by the defendant and assaulted. Mr Mahaye suggested that the Committee was alluding to a bigger issue. He said that the Commission on Gender Equality Act itself needs to be debated. If the CGE is to interact sufficiently with the NGOs then a bigger budget is required. Further, he said that despite the well drafted legislation, implementation is difficult. He emphasized that this was not the fault of the Commissioners. The CGE presents its budget but Treasury only approves what they decide is necessary for CGE. The Committee needs to intervene in this process to augment the budget. The CGE can show areas of failure to the Committee due to lack of resources.
Adv de Lange said that he understood the shortcomings, but the remuneration expenses on 40 staff members appeared too large a sum of money. He asked which of the NGOs could assist with filling in forms in court. He said that the CGE can be the catalyst here. Adv de Lange explained that he was not being critical, but that the CGE needed to shift gears without negating the other work being done and before other offices are set up in other provinces. Adv de Lange asked for questions from other members.
Ms F Chohan-Kota (ANC) said that she appreciated that much of the CGE’s work was geared towards media campaigns. She referred to a list of expenses such as advertising and communications which she said sounded similar and asked if their difference be explained. She questioned why so much money was spent on capacity building.
Mr M Mzizi (IFP) asked if certain terms could instead be referred to as their birth names. For example, virginity testing, he explained, has a more subtle meaning in its birth name. Mr Mzizi asked if the CGE was against virginity testing, and if so, were they also against circumcision since both were Black customs. Further, Mr Mzizi asked about public education and traditional institutions. He asked on what basis rural traditional people are being engaged by the CGE, and what goals the CGE sought to achieve.
Dr J T Delport (DP) commented that in the recent financial statements, staff salaries had gone up from 5 million to 7 million and asked what their job descriptions were.
Iman G Solomon (ANC) said that he was also concerned about the salary increases, and pointed out that the budget for education and awareness had decreased by 50% in the same time period. He pointed out that there were a number of organisations dealing with gender issues and asked what bulk of work these organisations do for the CGE.
Mr Mahaye said that the CGE was being very proactive in producing the unaudited financial statements for the Committee. However, he added that since the statements have not yet been audited CGE was under no obligation to do so. He added that though that these statements would be given to the Committee because of the trust between the CGE and the Committee. He pointed out that the CGE were not supposed to take questions as yet on their unaudited financial statements but CGE was prepared to do so.
Adv de Lange asked how long auditing usually took and whether there is a legal limit for the production of financial statements.
Mr Mahaye said that according to the Public Finance Management Act, the accounts are given to the auditors two months after the end of the financial year and one month later signed financial statements. All government departments are then dependent on the Auditor-General to perform an audit.
Adv de Lange asked when the auditors usually call.
Mr Mahaye said that by July the Auditor-General should have at least started the process. It is then up to the Auditor-General but the speed depends on how complicated the accounts are.
Adv de Lange said that it makes it difficult for the Committee because they do not have an audited report.
Mr Mahaye replied that the Committee must speak to the Auditor-General about this, and that it is not the problem of the CGE.
Dr Delport asked if the Committee were not entitled to see the unaudited figures, as they needed to know what is being spent.
Adv de Lange explained that Mr Mahaye was saying that the figures are available to be commented upon, but are not yet audited.
Mr Mahaye said that the CGE was being proactive by providing figures that were not for public consumption, and added that the new report is not ready.
Adv de Lange said that this was understood.
Mr Mahaye replied to Ms Kota’s question on duplication. He said that Communications refers to telephones, email, couriers, and administrative communications, including communication to the UN. The Gender Media & Advertising expense item was a research project that had been carried out, which had been given wide publicity. Advertising meant advertising for staff, and Capacity Building meant the levy for the Skills Development Act.
In response to Mzizi’s question, Mr Mahaye commented that it is necessary to be sensitive around terminology to prevent a perception that CGE is sensitive to one culture only. He explained that virginity testing used to happen during King Chaka’s reign but he abolished the preactice in the 1850s. In 1984 someone revived this practice in KwaMashu. Mr Mahaye asked how this could be a tradition when it was so recently revived.
This comment raised some debate from other members, but the Chairperson said that he did not want to debate this issue at this time. He said that there must be a balance between tradition and the Bill of Rights, and that people must feel free to choose.
Ms Seedat said that the thrust of research is towards greater gender equality. For example, with regards to traditional leadership, she said that bills such as the Municipal Infrastructure Amendment Bill are geared towards entrenching the authority of the traditional leadership and not affirming the women who experience this type of authority.
Mr Mahaye, responding to Dr Delport’s question on rising salaries, said that at the beginning there was minimal staff, and that since staff numbers have grown and matured they require remuneration in line with their experience. The level of staff salaries is strictly in line with the tenets set out by the Public Service Commission. Salary scales and notches are used. A job analysis is done and the Department of Justice gives a salary notch for the position.
Adv de Lange asked why their salaries are not put in front of the Committee as others are.
Mr Mahaye said that the salaries are done according to the published scales of the Public Service Commission. The staff had not received annual notch increases as others are said to have. He argued that in fact the staff at CGE earn less than staff in other commissions. He suggested that because the staff consisted mostly of women, this may be a reason for this discrepancy.
In terms of the 50% drop in project budget , Mr Mahaye said that he supposed it was because CGE had reprioritized. The CGE had not made regular contacts with the media to begin with, but contacts had now been made. Newspaper features and regular space was much easier to obtain and so less money was required for advertising.
In response to the Iman’s question, Mr Mahaye pointed out that CGE is not a women’s organisation. The Office on the Status of Women and the National Women’s Coalition deals primarily with women’s issues. The mandate of the CGE has a gender focus of promoting equality between men and women and as such it does not perform the same work as other organisations with a women’s focus.
Mr G Magwanishe (ANC) commented that poverty oppresses women and this creates a need for better co-ordination. He asked if such co-ordination exists in the relationship between CGE and other like-minded organizations. He also approved of the gender training programmes for men and said that it was bad if men were not properly trained.
Ms N Mahlawe (ANC) commented gender inequality is especially apparent in higher posts in all government Departments. She asked how CGE planned to address this problem. Further, she asked what the function of the Office on the Status of Women is. She added that her belief is that outreach programmes to rural women are rare.
Mr Magwanishe asked if CGE had any relationship with the Youth Commission.
Mr Mzizi said that domestic workers do not wish to be referred to as domestics, but prefer to be called ‘helpers’. He asked whether the term ‘domestic’ included male gardeners?
Ms Malhawe said that salaries presented a challenge to CGE.
Ms Seedat asked if the salaries of the HRC came before the Committee. She contended that the Bill does not stipulate that CGE must present its salaries before the Committee.
Adv de Lange said that it was very important to check this.
Ms Seedat said that a report on the private sector showed that the private sector is doing worse in terms of recruitment of female staff. Further she added that SMMEs are not the only focus for gender equality, although this is the focus of the creation of wealth.
Gender training for men was a pilot project in KwaZulu Natal. It was very successful and CGE were planning to implement a similar programme in the other provinces.
In terms of monitoring government, the office of the Status of Women is a statutory body and should determine how organisations function together. In August a summit will be held to bring together the three arms of national gender machinery to assess how different aspects of the machinery interact with each other.
In terms of domestic workers, Ms Seedat explained the focus is on legislation. The recent Unemployment Insurance Amendment Bill excluded domestic workers, and CGE is pursuing this matter. A new union has also been formed. She said that CGE is unaware of the workers preference to be termed ‘helpers’, but added that if this is the case, then they shall be termed ‘helpers’.
In the rural areas, roadshows are being held to create awareness of peoples rights and how these rights can be accessed. A further purpose of the roadshows is to help stop witchcraft violence.
Mr Mahaye commented that the Basic Conditions of Employment Act excludes domestic workers. Further he said that psychologically, ‘helpers’ is not a useful term. He said that terms are sometimes merely the "opium of the people", which can disguise abuse. Help, by definition, is not paid for.
Mr Mahaye said that CGE does not have a structured relationship with the Youth Commission but does work with it. CGE attends the same functions and both organizations provide each other with inputs. There are no joint projects. The strength of this relationship could improved.
Adv de Lange said that the relationship between the CGE and the Justice and Constitutional Development Committee is not as structured as it should be. The Committee is going on a trip in July to visit the courts. On the previous trip the Committee had not visited the offices of the CGE within the provinces but on the next trip they would. He asked the CGE to please give some thought to the issues that had been raised at the meeting. How much money is spent is not as important as how it is spent. The CGE has made a big difference especially with regards to policy. Adv de Lange said that the Committee is parochial and that it would like the work of the CGE to be visible. He is aware that there is a debate on whether to address systemic problems or not.
Adv de Lange re-iterated that he would like to see a costed plan of the rollout to other provinces. He said this would make it easier for the Committee to assist the CGE realize its goals. He also commented that there may be some duplication on witchcraft projects with Justice and asked if this was Justice’s responsibility. He said that Justice had been angry when the Committee had questioned them on this point but he insisted that the matter was debatable. Finally he said that if CGE wanted extra money for this project, CGE must present a plan to the Committee.
Adv de Lange asked for all commissioners to be present at the next meeting.
Mr Mahaye said that the communication between the two offices had been unclear and said he thought it had been emphasized that the Committee only wanted to see the CEO.
Adv de Lange apologised for this and said that he definitely wanted to see all the commissioners.