Commission on Gender Equality Annual Report and Budget

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Justice and Correctional Services

07 May 2007
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Meeting report

JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
8 May 2007
COMMISSION ON GENDER EQUALITY ANNUAL REPORT AND BUDGET

Chairperson: Ms F Chohan-Khota (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) Annual Report 2006/07 [available at www.cge.org.za]
CGE Budget Report
CGE presentation on budget
Action Plans: Provincial Offices of the Commission on Gender Equality
Strategic Plan of the Commission on Gender Equality 2007/8

Audio Recording of the Meeting


SUMMARY
The Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) outlined the peaks and troughs of the period under review 2006/7. The Commission reported greater presence in the provinces due to an increased number of provincial offices. The substantial number of newly appointed commissioners would also increase the Commission’s reach and impact. The Commission’s programmes, strategic objectives and budget for 2006/7 were outlined.

The Committee requested a full report on staff placements both within the local offices and head office and what was being proposed in terms of new positions. Also requested reports on what had become of surplus funds from the previous year and on the backlog of complaints, the complexities of the complaints and the level of client satisfaction.

The Chairperson went on to describe what she saw as a lack of interaction between the Portfolio Committee and the Chapter 9 organisations in general and the CGE in particular. She requested the CGE to bring its problems to the Committee by means of regular submission of reports throughout the year which would allow the Committee greater insight into the life of the CGE as oppose to one accountability session a year.

MINUTES
Introduction by Chairperson
The Chairperson opened the meeting and welcomed Ms Joyce Piliso-Seroke, the Chairperson of the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) and all her colleagues at the CGE, with a special word of welcome to the new commissioners present. The Chairperson asked Ms Piliso-Seroke to introduce her colleagues and allow for a small introduction by each of the new commissioners.

The new commissioners - Yvette Abrahams, Nomboniso Gasa, Teboho Maitse, Janine Hicks, Mr Dim Shozi and Nep Loyilane - were introduced followed by the existing managerial CGE staff: Chasa Majake, Godfried Kruger, Phosa Mashangane, Maretha de Waal, Mavis Monama.

The Chairperson then introduced the Justice Portfolio Committee members to the new CGE commissioners: Mr Landers, Mr Magwanishe, Ms Mahlawe, Ms Meruti and Mr Solomon, were introduced as the only committee members present, all from the African National Congress.

Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) presentation
Ms J Piliso-Seroke (Chairperson, CGE) commenced her presentation by noting that this would be her last presentation to the Committee due to her term of office with the CGE drawing to a close in September 2007. Before handing over to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ms Majake, Ms Piliso-Seroke highlighted some milestones for the CGE in the year under review.

In terms of the parliamentary review of Chapter 9 Institutions, Ms Piliso-Seroke noted CGE’s submission to the relevant Ad Hoc Committee and expressed her wish that the submission would be received in a constructive spirit.

Ms Piliso-Seroke highlighted the increased representation of CGE, now in all provinces of South Africa. This had enabled the CGE to reach a greater number people.

She emphasised her pleasure in welcoming the new commissioners on board, congratulating the new appointees on their selection after a lengthy and difficult selection process. Ms Piliso-Seroke noted the challenges ahead of the CGE but stated her confidence in the team.

In terms of collaboration and outreach Ms Piliso-Seroke reported positively on CGE activities. She listed some of the joint initiatives undertaken by CGE in collaboration with various partners, some examples being the Conference on Ritual Murders held in Limpopo, the World Congress on Rural Women and Rural Development, the United Nations Conference on the Status of Women and the Commonwealth Conference on the Marginalisation of Indigenous Women.

Ms Piliso-Seroke also reported on of institutional governance improvements made within the CGE. She noted improved staff turnover and success in filling most of the vacancies with the staff complement increasing from ninety four to one hundred and one in the period under review.

Ms Piliso-Seroke did raise concern over the budget process whereby CGE had to approach Treasury through the Department of Justice. She was concerned that the independence of the CGE would be compromised as a result of their dependence on the Department of Justice.

Ms Majake proceeded to outline the CGE’s Annual Report 2006/7 looking at its strategic objectives, programmes and research, public education, human and financial resources, budgeted personnel expenses, distribution of funding and programme expenditure. Also covered were the Auditor General’s audit opinion, the most pervasive gender equality concerns in 2006/7, challenges such as those emanating from the CGE Act and the CGE's strategic impact

As an aside Ms Majake noted that the CGE’s balance sheet had not yet been audited, once this was done she would forward a copy to the Committee.

Discussion
The Chairperson referred to areas of concern raised in the Auditor General’s audit report, specifically that the audit was qualified.

The newly appointed Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Mr Kruger reported on the reforms that he had made to provide greater financial accountability within the CGE. Mr Kruger referred to the implementation of an electronic asset count system, regular unannounced cash counts, a revamped filing system, and an authorisation system whereby his signature is required for travel claims. Mr Kruger noted that the CGE’s finances were being strictly monitored and the remaining problems were mainly of a procedural nature.

Mr Landers (ANC) expressed his concern that these so-called ‘procedural’ matters could worsen and snowball rapidly to the point of making the CGE unmanageable. He urged the CFO to take these ‘procedural’ matters very seriously.

Mr Magwanishe (ANC) echoed Mr Landers’ sentiment stating that these matters were not immaterial; he argued that such matters go to the heart of good governance.

The Chairperson raised the question of surplus funds. She noted that the surplus amount of R2,3 million was not approved for roll-over by the Auditor General as of March 2006. The Chairperson asked whether permission had subsequently been given to carry the surplus funds over.

The CFO reported that this surplus figure referred to an amount received from the Department of Public Works. Ms Majake interrupted the CFO and explained that the surplus figure of R2, 3 million did include a portion of money received from the Department of Public Works.

The Chairperson remained dissatisfied with this explanation and requested another report that clearly illustrated what had become of these surplus funds.

The CGE’s leave policy was earmarked in the Auditor General report due to its inadequacy in calculating leave owed and lack of verification measures. The Chairperson asked about measures taken by the CGE to curb these problems.

Ms Majake explained that the previous problems with leave calculations were to a large extent due to the manual calculations employed. An electronic system had subsequently been introduced; this system would verify leave owing and would be directly linked to the salary system. The human resources department had fallen under tremendous pressure due to the rapid growth of the CGE and it had struggled to cope. This has partly been remedied by increasing the size of the human resources department, further staff additions were still in order. As regards the Auditor General’s report, Ms Majake clarified that it was not the case that there were no leave forms. Leave forms had been filled out but were unsigned.

In reply to the Chairperson asking how many vacancies were currently available within the human resources department, Ms Majake said that there were currently two vacancies.

At this point the Chairperson requested a full report and analysis of staff placements both within the local offices and head office. She wanted details on exactly what is being proposed in terms of new positions.

The Chairperson went on to describe what she saw as a lack of interaction between the Portfolio Committee and the Chapter 9 organisations in general and the CGE in particular. She emphasised that ‘interaction’ entails consultative engagement and in no way refers to an impediment of the CGE’s independence. The Chairperson suggested that it would be more helpful for both the CGE and for the Portfolio Committee if the CGE brought problems to the Committee before going straight to Treasury or the Department of Justice. Regular submission of reports throughout the year would allow the Committee greater insight into the life of the CGE as oppose to one accountability session a year. The Chairperson stressed that due to the breadth of the Committee’s oversight domain it was crucial that the CGE maintain contact with the Committee rather than waiting for the Committee to initiate contact.

Ms Majake noted the Chairperson’s requests and committed to oblige.

The Chairperson noted that the CGE’s supply chain management was cited as being a problem last year and remained a problem in this year’s report, she asked why this had not been resolved and what measures had been taken.

Ms Majake reported that a finalised supply chain management document was now in place; previously the document only had draft status.

Mr Magwanishe (ANC) suggested that the weak human resources retention strategy could be linked to non-competitive salaries.

The Chairperson noted Mr Magwanishe’s point and suggested that the Committee request the contracts of all the department heads of every unit in all Chapter 9 institutions. In this way the Committee would be able to construct a comparative framework.

Ms Majake suggested that a more effective human resources retention strategy could take the form of study incentives rather than offering larger salaries. She reported that job evaluations had been carried out at CGE in the service of a retention strategy.

Ms Mahlawe (ANC) referred to the CGE mention of patriarchy as a persistent obstacle to gender equality. She inquired into the CGE’s role in the Shilubane court case [aimed at enabling Tinyiko Shilubane to be recognized as the chief of her community].

Ms Piliso-Seroke responded by noting the high level of resistance to gender equality that emanates from the House of Traditional Leaders. She referred to an instance in Kwa-Zulu Natal when she was singled out for being opposed to the traditional leadership and the practice of virginity testing. Ms Piliso-Seroke explained her own personal discomfort in such a situation and with the reality of being isolated as anti-tradition. Ms Piliso-Seroke cited the new commission on Cultural and Linguistic Practices as ushering in an opportunity for greater collaboration with traditional leaders. She emphasised that successful monitoring of cultural practices would have to be preceded by discussion with traditional leaders.

Ms Monama (CGE) responded regarding the Shilubane matter. She explained that the CGE had taken a position on the matter, and at this stage the matter was still sub-judice until 29 May.

Ms Mahalwe offered her encouragement to the CGE and urged them to continue their involvement in this matter as it may prove to be precedent-setting.

Mr Solomon (ANC) suggested that the problems identified in the Auditor General’s report were indicative of weaknesses within the CGE’s internal audit committee. He asked whether the internal audit committee released quarterly reports.

The Chairperson again stressed the importance of raising issues with the Committee before the Auditor General audit report. She noted Mr Solomon’s suggestion and asked that these quarterly reports be passed on to the Committee so it can establish a sound record of the CGE’s history.

The Chairperson referred to the Auditor General’s identification of an outstanding declaration form and explained that that kind of matter should be brought to the attention of the Committee prior to the Auditor General’s report. The Chairperson asked about the structuring of the declaration form and whether it was only an internal measure or whether it was included in the CGE’s published Annual Report.

Ms Majake responded that the declaration form was indeed part of the published Annual Report. Ms Piliso-Seroke added that the obligation to declare gifts has been in place prior to the establishment of the formal declaration form. A limit of R500 had been placed on gifts.

Mr Landers commended the CGE on this and suggested that the declaration process needed to be taken further by setting up an ongoing monitoring process. A possible suggestion was made to place the declarations on the CGE website.

The Chairperson emphasised that the declarations should be constantly updated.

Ms Piliso-Seroke noted the suggestions.

Ms Meruti (ANC) congratulated the CGE on the work done in the period under review. She then inquired into the matter of public education and requested information on the number of provincial workshops held and whether there were follow-up mechanisms in place?

Mr Mashangoane (CGE) stated that evaluation forms were distributed after every workshop. He referred to proposed quarterly meetings in which all relevant stakeholders would participate with a view to assessing the CGE’s impact.

Ms Meruti requested further detail on the CGE’s legal services in terms of how many cases have had successful outcomes and how many had been thrown out of court and what the reasons were for this.

Ms Monama (CGE) explained that the CGE did not actually represent rape complainants. The CGE’s role was to monitor the progress of the courts and to interact with magistrates.

The Chairperson referred to slide twelve of the presentation and asked what was included in the amount designated to legal services.

Ms Majake responded that this figure was all inclusive and included all legal administrative costs.

The Chairperson made a point on the division of the CGE’s activities. She made the distinction between macro-level work and micro-level work. The micro focus encompassed the CGE’s legal services, which the Committee would like to see more of. The Chairperson noted that the bulk of the CGE’s spending happened on the macro level. While this was not in itself problematic, the Chairperson suggested that a greater focus on the micro level would translate into greater presence within communities. The Chairperson noted the complexity of this challenge and the reciprocity inherent in the interplay of macro and micro foci. She requested greater differentiation and detail in the pie chart displaying the CGE’s distribution of funding.

The Chairperson requested greater detail around the current budget, particularly as regards the shortfall indicated in the last two columns of slide nine.

Mr Kruger (CGE CFO) offered some differentiation by referring to the options budget which illustrated a breakdown in terms of: internet technology increases, provincial management functions, building provincial capacity, communication and strategic planning

The Chairperson suggested that the CGE draw on best practice policies from other countries to aid in developing their strategic plan for moving forward. She noted that a broad consultative process with all role players would create a sound foundation for further work. The example of the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) was used to illustrate how prior consultation can positively contribute to future partnerships, and eventually to government departments being more receptive to recommendations. The Chairperson emphasised that consultation does not impinge upon independence. The role of the CGE is to transform state machinery and this could be more fruitfully done with some internal engagement with the role-players.

Mr Solomon referred to slide eleven “budgeted personnel expenses” and noted a stark imbalance in the budgeted increase from 2006 to 2007. The amount allocated to commissioners was set to increase by ten percent from R4, 827, 655 in 2006 to R5, 117, 315 in 2007. This contrasted with a fifty percent increase in the amount allocated to head office staff from R11, 736, 623 in 2006 to R18, 182, 208 in 2007.

Ms Majake explained that the head office amount included the establishment of four more provincial offices, in which each office would require at least six new staff members.

The Chairperson inquired into the sustainability of funding for staff salaries.

Ms Majake explained that the twenty five new appointments were not dependent on international funding.

The Chairperson noted a technical error in the CGE’s annual report. On page eleven in table one the figures for 2005 did not add up.

The Chairperson referred to page thirty nine of the Annual Report and requested that in future the details of the complaints be tabulated for easy access. The Chairperson requested details concerning the backlog of complaints, the complexities of the complaints and the level of client satisfaction. The Chairperson requested a concise and accessible resource from which to gauge the CGE’s actual successes.

Mr Landers referred to page thirty nine and noted mention of a feasibility study which did not give any detail as to the findings of the study. He suggested this be included.

The Chairperson requested information on the role of the equality courts. A separate report was requested that would detail the level of progress in each province, this would form part of an ongoing review of the equality courts.

Ms Piliso-Seroke noted that the CGE has appeared at hearings in equality courts and would make these reports available to the Committee.

The Chairperson raised concern over the influence of certain interest groups to the extent that the CGE could become subsumed by these interests. The Chairperson emphasised that the CGE should be heard as a voice apart from other groups within the gender network.

Ms Majake affirmed that the CGE was not one of the many non-government organisations (NGO) concerned with gender and should indeed stand apart. She noted the need for the CGE to educate NGOs about the role and mandate of the CGE.

Ms Hicks (CGE) emphasised the need for the CGE to create a space for ordinary women to voice their experiences of gender discrimination. Ms Hicks stated that the CGE should resist the temptation to speak out on behalf of women and refrain from assuming the so-called expert role to the extent that this can silence the voices of women.

The Chairperson affirmed the importance of collaboration with the portfolio committee members and reiterated the need to gain access to the bigger picture of gender discrimination.

In conclusion the Chairperson thanked Ms Piliso-Seroke for her service as the Chairperson of the CGE and remarked on her important contribution to the struggle for gender equality.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

 

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