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Arts and Culture Portfolio committee
12 September 2006
Windybrow CENTRE FOR THE ARTS: Annual Report and financial Statements BRIEFING & Adoption of COMMITTEE minutes
Acting Chairperson: Mr M R Sonto
Documents handed out:
PowerPoint presentation on Windybrow Centre for the Arts 2005/2006 Annual Report
The Windybrow Centre for the Arts reported that after a troublesome few years, it had now been able to restructure and implement various changes to the organization. The restructuring had focused on fixing compliance issues, developing a cohesive strategy, and implementing it through artistic contributions, marketing and fundraising. All compliance issues raised in the 2004/5 report had now been resolved. Significant organizational improvement had been made and was being implemented. The presenters described the context in which the Centre operated under the arts and culture policy directions, within the local Johannesburg theatre scene and in the broader South African performing arts industry. The strategy for achieving high-level objectives was described. Strategic risks included the negative perceptions of Windybrow, the effects of refurbishing, the future deterioration of the area and the extent of African interaction. The presenters tabled a brief financial summary, highlighting issues of governance, revenue, income and expenditure, concluding with a final commentary on results. It was noted that the audit report had been unqualified but there were matters of emphasis raised.
Committee Members questioned the composition of the Council and the meetings attended. Questions were raised around the audit, the scope of the financial report and non-government funding. Staffing issues included the percentage of the grant spent on employees, retrenchment and diversity. Members sought clarity on the relationship enjoyed with the Department of Arts and Culture, whether the Centre was representative of the local community, its expectations of the community and its role in the planned regeneration of Hillbrow and the Johannesburg inner city.
Mr Vuyo Maphela (Managing Director, Windybrow Centre for the Arts (Windybrow)) reported that the Theatre Centre had operated as a section 21 Company until March 2005. It was declared a national monument in 1996 and a cultural institution in April 2005. The last few years were described as “traumatic”, with a forensic audit being undertaken, frequent leadership changes, and challenges associated with the declaration as cultural institution and in complying with PFMA and Treasury requirements. The governance structures had collapsed as there were unfilled Council positions and the audit committee had not functioned. Stakeholders were dissatisfied and the area in which the Theatre was situated was difficult.
The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) had remained committed to the continuation of Windbrow, provided that the challenges could be overcome, and had given it until March 2006 to show improvement. Restructuring became a priority and teamwork was essential. The restructuring had focused on fixing compliance issues, developing a cohesive strategy, and implementing it through the artistic contribution, marketing and fundraising. All compliance issues raised in the 2004/5 report had now been resolved. Significant organizational improvement had been made and was being implemented. The context in which the Centre operated under the arts and culture policy directions, within the local Johannesburg theatre scene and in the broader South African performing arts industry was tabled.
The strategy for achieving high-level objectives was presented, together with an indication of what had been done so far. The strategic risks included the negative perceptions of Windybrow, the effects of refurbishing, the future deterioration of the area and the extent of African interaction.
The financial summary and governance highlights were briefly presented. It was noted that there had been significant increases in revenue from the coffee shop, ticket sales, venue hire, and interest earned. Employee related costs had declined as a result of the restructuring. There was a decreased package for the new Director. Bad debts had increased due to an inappropriate system of debt control.
Ms D van der Walt (DA) questioned why there were only six council members mentioned instead of the seven who should sit. She also asked why only three members of Council had attended meetings with the Chairperson of the audit committee, and how often they had met.
Mr Maphela answered that the Minister appointed seven members but only three were active members. One person had declined the offer. Two other appointees had missed three consecutive members and were dismissed, and the Chairperson had been unable to perform any duties after he was involved in a car accident. New members had been subsequently appointed to fill the vacant positions and the council now consisted of eight members.
Ms van der Walt (DA) noted the use of percentages to show increases but whole figures to present losses. She further questioned how ‘clean’ the audit was if there were still matters of emphasis.
Mr Allie Achmat, (Chief Financial Officer, Windybrow) admitted that there were matters of emphasis and accepted that there were still many issues to deal with. He agreed that the audit could not therefore properly be described as ‘clean’. There were, however, great improvements. Policy documents were in place, and workshops had been run to train staff in supply-chain management and their decentralized procurement policy so that it could be properly implemented. Issues around policies had been debated and policies were amended. Because system controls were now in place, further improvements should be seen in the coming financial year.
The Acting Chairperson was concerned with the accuracy of the report, and asked whether the reference to a clean audit had not been misleading.
Mr Achmat assured the committee that the report was accurate and that the audit was unqualified despite the matters of emphasis that still existed.
Mr Maphela added that the two issues were separate. The first issue was that an unqualified report had been received. The second issue was to note that there were still matters of emphasis that needed to be dealt with to improve further.
Ms van der Walt explained that government had set out various categories of compliance for the entities it funded. These included ‘clean’, ‘matters of emphasis’, ‘unqualified’, and ‘qualified’. She noted that of all the entities only four or five were ‘unqualified’ and so this was heartening. However, the matters of emphasis were serious and meant that treasury regulations and the PFMA still had to be met.
Mr Achmat explained that auditors gave qualifications on many issues. In 2005 Windybrow’s report had been qualified. When working systems were good and transparent, it would not be difficult to show where money had been spent, but where money could not be accounted for the audit would be qualified.
Mr K Khumalo (ANC) pointed to the employee-related costs and noted that these accounted for around 40% of the annual R5 million grant. He asked if Windybrow received funding from other institutions and if this report reflected all funding, or only that from government.
Mr Achmat answered that this report only reflected government funding. He referred to the audit costs of R203 000. He noted that this was split into internal auditing and external auditing. These systems had allowed Windybrow to identify the weaknesses in systems and controls. This had allowed Windybrow to improve systems to further comply with regulations.
Mr Khumalo asked why the ticket sales and coffee shop revenue were referred to in percentages.
Mr Achmat replied that the coffee bar revenue represented the only self-generated funding and noted that it was likely to improve as soon as logistical issues were sorted out. The main point was that it was not run in 2005, but already in its first year in 2006 it had generated R4000.
Mr Khumalo asked whether Windybrow was catering for its local community. The area around Windybrow, being Hillbrow and Berea, had changed dramatically in ten years and now half the local residents were Nigerian, Congolese and Ghanaian. He questioned whether the programming reflected this change and whether Windybrow had plans to cater for that community. He also asked whether artists within this community were utilized.
Ms N Mbombo (ANC) addressed issues of transformation. She questioned the diversity of staff, performers and audiences catered for. She pointed out that without catering to a wide spectrum of South Africa’s population the theatre would not be successful. She asked what culture meant to the theatre.
Mr Maphela responded he would regard these as comments rather than questions.
Mr C Gololo (ANC) returned to the issue of council members and asked how many meetings the Council had held in total. He also asked why the Acting Chairperson attended 11 meetings.
Mr Maphela responded that the Council had to attend a minimum of four meetings a year, but because of the restructuring and key decision-making, it had in fact met every month.
Mr Gololo asked what kinds of productions were held at the theatre.
Mr Maphela replied that all productions in the previous financial year had to cater to donors, such as Limpopo Province, and so were mainly developmental in nature.
Mr Gololo asked about Windybrow’s working relationship with the Department of Arts and Culture.
Mr Maphela noted that with regard to involvement in the research strategy Windybrow had worked closer with municipal than with provincial government. Interaction with communities had occurred at city level. The city and the province had been involved in a carnival to help fight xenophobia. He noted that it had been difficult to interact with the local community because many people from other African countries had been treated so badly that they were hostile to South Africans. Some people were also illegal residents and so were not eager to get involved. However, the carnival and other development projects had fostered a stronger and growing relationship.
Mr G Lekgetho (ANC) asked for details regarding the presenter’s comment that “Hillbrow is not for sissies”.
Mr Maphela replied that this statement did not apply to the whole area but there were some dangerous pockets in the suburb. He also noted that there was a growing relationship with police and civil organisations that was increasing the security of the area. There had been a great improvement, with efforts like the Community Police Forum and civilians working together, to stimulate ideas on how best to deal with security issues.
Mr Lekgetho questioned the diversity of the staff and why there were no white or Indian people on the staff.
Mr Maphela answered that the theatre attracted black actors, production crew and staff because there was a perception that it was a black institution. He questioned how deeply they should engage in transformation while still attracting the right kind of people. The staff was a diverse group of creative people.
Mr Lekgetho stated that the government aimed to halve unemployment by 2040 and enquired why so many people were being retrenched at Windybrow. She asked whether there were disciplinary measures before dismissal.
Mr Maphela responded that the institution had been going through chaos with frozen funding, no productions and staff doing very little work. In its attempts to strengthen Windbrow the Council had retrenched some staff members, against the wishes of management. At the moment Windybrow was involved in a legal battle with unions to re-hire staff without succumbing to unreasonable financial demands.
The Acting Chairperson addressed the issue of cultural exchange with the rest of Africa and asked how Windybrow dealt with other countries in Africa. He asked which eight countries were consulted in the research. He further asked for an explanation of a link between South African diversity and African culture.
Mr Maphela defined spoken word as poetry in performance – a tradition largely started at the Windybrow. It was a home for poets. The festival would allow poets, including those from other countries in Africa to share ideas and work, as well as foster budding talent through workshops.
Ms van der Walt enquired about the relationship with the city council and their plans to regenerate Hillbrow and the inner city.
Mr Maphela responded that the neighbourhood was improving because of vacant flat invasions, evictions, the refurbishment of flats and the development of low-cost housing. He added that during the Christmas holidays there used to be waves of crime and violence but now, because of the carnival, this had improved. Windybrow was thus part of the area upliftment process.
The Chair asked what the Windybrow needed or expected from the committee.
Mr Maphela replied that Windybrow had been faced with many challenges and had dealt with most of them successfully. Windybrow was confident that it would be able to deal with future challenges successfully.
The chair thanked the presenters and assured them of the support of the committee.
Approval of Committee Minutes 25 June and 15 August
The Chair tabled the minutes of 25 June and 15 August. Some grammatical changes were made to ensure clarity. The Committee adopted the Minutes.
The meeting was adjourned
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