ATC131009: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities on the oversight visit to the offices of the Commission on Gender Equality from 30-31 July 2013, dated 18 September 2013

NCOP Women, Children and People with Disabilities

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities on the oversight visit to the offices of the Commission on Gender Equality from 30-31 July 2013, dated 18 September 2013

The Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities, having undertaken an oversight visit to the offices and attended a workshop with the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE), reports as follows:

1. Introduction

The Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities undertook an oversight visit to the Commission on Gender Equality from the 30th – 31st July 2013.

2. Background

The Committee resolved in its meeting held on 5 June 2013 to hold a workshop with the Commission on Gender Equality on litigation cases and the cost incurred in dealing with these cases. In addition, the workshop to be hosted by the Commission on Gender Equality would coincide with the Committee’s intention to conduct oversight and visit the offices of the Commission. Moreover, the Committee planned to also visit one of the Commission’s Legal Clinics and provincial office’s dealing with complaints.

3. Objectives

The objectives of the workshop were as follows:

a) To assess the CGE’s infrastructure at their offices and practical implementation of the turn-around strategy.

b) Visit the CGE provincial offices to assess how matters related to complaints from civil society are dealt with.

c) Visit Legal Clinics to assess services delivered to the public in this regard.

4. Delegation

The delegation was comprised of the following Members and officials:

Ms D Ramodibe (ANC, leader of the delegation), Ms P Petersen- Maduna (ANC), Ms M Nxumalo (ANC), Ms E More (DA), Ms CB Diemu (COPE) and Ms S Paulse (ID). The delegation was accompanied by the following Parliamentary staff: Ms N Nobatana (Committee Secretary), Ms K Abrahams (Content Adviser), Ms C Levendale (Committee Researcher), Mr L Wakefield (Committee Researcher) and Ms C Sheldon (Committee Assistant).

5. Introductory Comments by Chairperson of the Commission

The Chairperson of the Commission made introductory comments and welcomed the Committee to the offices. To this end, the Chairperson of the Commission provided an overview of the mandate and vision of the Commission. The Commission’s work can be grouped into seven categories i.e. monitoring and evaluation, investigations, education and information, research, lobbying and advisory services, liaison and serving on statutory forums. The Chairperson also mentioned the role between the Commission and the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities.

In addition, the critical issues affecting the Commission were noted as follows:

  • The Commission has a broad mandate but inadequate funding to deal with gender equality issues;
  • The low baseline from which the Commission’s budget has been established is the source of all its financial problems i.e. Human resources issues, programmes and support services;
  • Conservative attitudes towards gender equality;
  • It would appear that it is a strategic risk to underfund gender equality i.e. as such the Commission cannot deal adequately with patriarchy, gender-based violence and other sustentative gender equality issues;
  • The terms of Commissioners will be coming to an end on 30 May 2014 and one Commissioner who had resigned; and
  • The Kader Asmal report that is still pending and that National Treasury is thus reluctant to assist with additional funding until the outcome of this report is concluded.

The Chairperson of the Commission also acknowledged the role played by the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities in holding the Commission to account and requested the Committee to assist to ensure that it receives adequate funding.

After the introductory comments, the Committee proceeded with a tour of the Commission’s offices and engagement with the staff.

6. Tour through the offices of the Commission on Gender Equality

The Committee visited the offices of the Commission i.e. Office of chairperson of the CGE, office of the Chief Executive Officer, Public and Education Information Department (PEI), Research Department, Finance Department, Human Resource Department, Internal Audit and Legal Department.

6.1. Legal Department

The Committee was informed that there were 10 Legal Officers employed nationally and the Commission employed the Head of Legal Department who will commence in October 2013. Furthermore, the Committee was informed that the Commission was unable to retain support staff due to competing salaries for work opportunities afforded to staff and staff that had resigned indicated that the expected workload was not comparable to the salary provided. The staff compliment within the department was 11 (10 officers and 1 support staff) and the requisite was 15.

The Legal support staff indicated that the new target to handle cases was 45 cases per quarter and also the support staff deals with 5 or more cases per day. The Committee was provided with an overview of how the support staff manages cases until its finalised. The turn-around time to handle cases was 30 days. In instances, when cases are not within the mandate of the CGE, those cases are referred to other institutions such as other Chapter 9 institutions.

The Committee was informed that the Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding with bodies within the religious sector such as the Shembe Churches in KwaZulu-Natal. This MOU is focused on the rights of children and holds that both the Commission and Shembe Church would hold public awareness activities to educate the Community on the rights of children. The key challenges faced by the Commission when dealing with sexual offences and domestic violence cases was that statements were not taken properly by police officials and therefore perpetrators were not arrested.

6.2. Human Resources Department

The Committee was informed that there were 4 support staff namely; the Head of Department, Deputy Director, Senior Labour relations Officer and Human Relations Administrative Officer. Furthermore, the Committee was also informed that the Commission was busy with job evaluations to the grading of staff taking into account the workload of each support staff in dealing with retention strategy. It was indicated that the positions of 5 Provincial Coordinators were filled and that the others would be filled in due course. The Commission was in the process of reviewing its policies and processes and is prioritising issues in dealing with staff complaints and had interacted with staff representative on such issues. The Commission also indicated that 5 Researcher posts have been advertised but 8 more Researchers are still required. There were no persons with disabilities employed within the Commission’s administrative component but human resource indicated that the CGE has one Commissioner with a disability.

6.3. Public Education and Information Department

The Committee was informed that the Department was responsible for awareness raising and promotion and the education programme. This entailed educating the community by conducting workshops on issues pertaining to gender mainstreaming, undertaking road-shows in provinces and through radio interviews. The Commission indicated that rural areas are reached through the use of media such community radio stations, the South African Broadcasting Agency (SABC) and private radio stations. The Commission has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with other relevant Chapter 9 institutions, the SABC and will sign MOU’s with community radio stations to formalise the relationship. The Commission also received free services from the Government Communication Information Services (GCIS) and conducts interviews which are translated in various languages. Furthermore, the Commission has engaged with National Community Radio (NCR) in the first quarter of 2013 and would continue with the programme in quarter 2, 3 and 4 in financial year 2013/14 as per the Annual Performance Plan (APP). It was indicated that Provincial offices had signed their own MOU’s with traditional leaders and religious leaders at a provincial level. The Commission indicated that the challenges faced by this Department relates to the reliance on the management of SABC/TV to cover the Commission’s programme due to budgetary constraints and the printing of documents which is very expensive especially for rural areas. The PEI Department intended to explore other means of advertising such as social networks which are more cost effective. In addition, the Committee was informed that the department started printing in Braille to cater for blind persons and also printed a document which explains the mandate of CGE in 5 languages and will print other languages in financial year 2013/14.

6.4. Internal Audit Department

The Committee was informed that the Internal Audit Department was comprised of 2 support staff dealing with internal audit of the CGE and that given the limited capacity staff were only able to undertake audits for high risk areas. The Department audited 12 projects for 2012/13. Quarterly reports were submitted to the office of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Internal Audit Committee. In turn, the Chairperson of the Committee reports to the plenary on a quarterly basis.

6.5. Information Technology Department

The Committee was informed that there was 2 support staff dealing with Information Technology (IT) of the national office of the Commission and all 9 Provincial Offices. Furthermore, it was indicated that the office equipment being used was more than 5 years old and very slow and needed to be updated. The information on the server is secure and enables the 9 provincial offices and the head office to communicate accordingly. In addition, the system currently used was not coping with the demand of users.

6.6. Research Department

The Research Department was established in 2005 with a Head of Department and 9 Researchers. The Committee was informed that the Commission was in the process of consolidating the Research Unit to a National Research Office in order to coordinate work better. The Committee was also informed that the Commission is conducting a project to look at Gender Focal Points within certain Government Departments. Furthermore, the Commission also monitors through its Research Department the programmes of the National Council Against Gender-Based Violence, reviews the 365 days National Plan of Action against Gender-Based Violence and the Gender Barometer. Moreover, the Commission indicated R2.5 million would need to be sourced to undertake the Africa-Gender Development Index with partners.

In addition, the Research Department also assists Commissioners with research work but this type of support is limited due to capacity constraints. In terms of completed projects, the CGE worked with the Criminal Justice Cluster to evaluate the Victim’s Charter and this project was completed after six years due to limited human resource capacity. Another challenged noted related to the policy dialogue project whereby Government Departments are invited to participate in policy dialogues, however junior support staff are often sent to attend these meetings.

It was also indicated that the Commission has a working relationship with the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities with regards to information sharing and also on projects such as “One women, one sector”, as well as how to expedite the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill. The Commission has acknowledged that there is overlap between the Commission and Department insofar as gender mainstreaming and its monitoring is concerned. A key issue in this regard would be the objectivity of the CGE in monitoring the DWCPD, as part of their constitutional and legislative mandate. To this end, the Commission agreed to hold a workshop to address this matter. The Commission, specifically the Research Department has a very good working relationship with the Department of Monitoring and Evaluation on specific projects.

6.7. Finance Department

The Finance Department has a staff complement of 11 officials including the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). There were 2 vacancies which occurred during the 1 st quarter of 2013 which would be filled in August 2013. Interns have provided a positive contribution to the Department. Furthermore, the Department has conducted a skills audit and observed areas that require additional capacity. The vacant post within Supply Chain Management was advertised and filled in June 2013. The CFO indicated that there were challenges of team performance and other weaknesses as identified by the Auditor-General of South Africa’s report (AGSA) and which have not been fully dealt with. In turn, t he Internal Audit Department which was operated by two support staff was in the process of dealing with those issues. It was also indicated that there were repeat audit findings due to incompetence and capabilities within the Department but there was improvement in order to meet all the objectives of the turn-around strategy. The Finance Department had no staff with disabilities within its employ.

6.8. Office of the Chairperson of the Commission and the Chief Executive Officer

The Committee visited the offices of the Chairperson and that of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) where the Chairperson explained the processes of dealing with the work of the Commission. Each office has 2 support staff to assist the Chairperson and the CEO to perform their duties. The CGE had 8 Commissioners ( 6 full time and 2 part-time) and 1 Commissioner had resigned in the beginning of 2013. There were 4 vacancies within the office of the chairperson of the Commission and the CEO.

Commissioners have delegated responsibilities in various operational committees of the CGE as an institution. Two plenary sessions are held per year (one closed and one open session) with all Commissioners as per the CGE Act. Furthermore, Commissioners noted that they write their own reports and do not have support staff to assist them in this regard. A Commissioners’ Handbook has also been developed that outlines standard operating procedures. The Commissioners section 6 committees will focus on the following areas:

· Gender-based violence;

· Substantive equality;

· Economic Empowerment;

· Culture, religion and tradition;

· Health and Education;

· National Gender Machinery

In terms of the office of the CEO, the Internal Audit reports directly to the CEO; management meetings are held fortnightly in which administration and programme issues are discussed and Provincial Coordinators have quarterly extended meetings with the head office.

After a tour to the Department’s offices, the Committee attended a workshop hosted by the Commission on litigation cases and costs incurred in dealing with these cases and progress on the implementation of the turn-around strategy was also discussed.

7. Presentation by Legal Officers on litigation cases

The Acting Head of Legal Department, Advocate Kamraj Anirudhra presented the litigation cases that the Commission has dealt with. These included but were not limited to cases of women who were discriminated against on the basis of their marital status or due to customary practices, maintenance, domestic violence and religious marriages. The cost incurred for the aforementioned cases ranged from R45 000 to R1 million depending on the nature of the case.

The second presentation by Ms Powys focused on litigation cases in the Equality Court in the KwaZulu-Natal Province. An example of a case of unfair discriminatory was cited. It took place in Umlazi Township in KwaZulu Natal Province. The case cost a maximum fee of R20 000 for Junior Counsel to deal with the case. The breakdown costs were as follows:

· Consultation at NGO rate was R600 per day,

· Appearance at Equality Court was R4 500 per day and

· Preparation for the case was R400 per day.

The presenter provided an overview of statistics per province of cases dealt with as follows:

· Northern Cape (January-June 2013) 12 cases as follows: 4 cases in Family Court, 4 Maintenance Court, 3 Regional/Divorce cases and 1 Equality Court.

· Eastern Cape (April–July 2013) 9 cases as follows: 1 Family Court, 7 Maintenance Court, 1 Region/Divorce Court, 0 Equality Court.

· Mpumalanga Province (January-July 2013) had 45 cases as follows: 20 in Family Court, 15 Maintenance Court, 5 Regional/Divorce Court and 5 in Equality Court and (25 Deceases Estate).

· KwaZulu-Natal Province (January–July 2013) 24 cases as follows: 19 in Family Court, 2 in Maintenance Court, 3 in Regional/Divorce Court, 0 in Equality Court and 18 were classified as others.

Ms Oosthuysen presented the structure of the Legal Department, service area and skills set, functions of the Legal Department, complaints handling process and also cited examples where litigation was avoided after intervention by the Commission. The presenter indicated that in such cases approximately R50 000 was saved depending if cases were not opposed. In addition, the presenter also informed the Committee that there is a free call hotline (0800 007 709) where complainants can report gender related complaints 24 hours a day.

8. Legal Clinic - Stanza Bopape Community Centre, Mamelodi , Pretoria

The Committee attended the Legal Aid Clinic conducted by the Commission at the Stanza Bopape Community Centre in Mamelodi , Pretoria. The community, residents of Mamelodi , was addressed by Commissioner Mgoqi and provided an overview and the purpose of the Legal Clinic. The presenter indicated that the role of the Legal Clinic was to raise awareness about and submit complaints on gender related matters, including gender based violence, sexual harassment, domestic violence, gender discrimination, divorce, custody & access, gender related labour issues, estate, unlawful eviction, claim restitution, tradition & culture and other gender equality related issues. Furthermore Commissioner Mgoqi indicated that the purpose of the visit was to give members of the Committee an opportunity to observe the processes that the Commission applies when assisting members of the community with their complaints.

Hereafter the Ward Coordinator addressed the audience and acknowledged the visit by the Committee and indicated that there was a need for the Committee to interact with the Community. Thereafter, members of the community were given the opportunity to raise their issues with the Legal Officers of the CGE. Members of the Committee also observed individual complaint sessions with legal offices on a range of matters.

The Committee proceeded to visit the Provincial Office of the CGE in Pretoria. The Committee interacted with the support staff in the Education, Research, Provincial Coordinator and Legal offices. All of the aforementioned office staff raised similar concerns that were noted in the National Office.

· Research:

o Insufficient office space as such currently the researcher works in the resource centre.

o In terms of a lack of resources, it related to the following:

§ Limited budget for events to present research findings;

§ No resources available to purchase voice recorders when conducting interviews;

§ No research assistance provided, which means that the researcher’s workload is increased by for example time taken for transcribing interviews.

§ Difficulty in working on your own, as opposed to in a team at provincial level

o Currently the Communications Department staff edits the work of the researcher, and this amounts to various quandaries as the conceptualisation of research is quite different to the conceptualisation around communication.

· Legal Officer:

o The current legal officer for the province is also working as the head of complaints at the national office. This illustrates the provincial human resource constraints and resources required to address the matter.

o It was indicated that the Equality Courts were problematic in its implementation. To this end, the challenges raised were that clerks were not trained on equality complaints and PEPUDA, which results in many cases not being registered as equality complaints. This in turn results into a lack of implementation of provisions of PEPUDA.

o Noted 63 cases so far for the month

A particular challenge raised by the Provincial office was the availability of vehicles to commute within provinces to do out-reach activities. The pool of vehicles is limited and staff resort to using personal vehicles where company vehicles are not available.

9. Observations

The Committee having conducted oversight of the Commission’s office facilities and having had engaged with Commission’s officials noted the following observations:

Committee Observation

CGE Response

· The Committee noted that there was a shortage of human resource capacity in all departments of the Commission, both at national and provincial offices. This in turn impacted on the Commission’s ability to fully implement their mandate.

· The Commission cannot employ the necessary human resource capacity in all Departments due to financial constraints.

· The Commission does have interns within the employ at present.

· The Commission’s high staff turn-over is attributed to the volume of the workload amidst the limited capacity and better salary offers which the Commission cannot match.

· The Commission has a completed all job descriptions and was in the process of reviewing certain positions e.g. regrading of legal officers.

· The Committee noted that the Commission had intervened in cases involving children in Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces and commended the Commission on the interventions despite challenges experienced.

· The Committee reiterated the importance of tracking mechanisms to monitor progress of cases that have emerged in the media.

· The Commission indicated that it would provide the Committee with progress reports on all the cases discussed.

· The Commission was concerned about the many sexual assault and domestic violence cases that have been withdrawn by the family but the NPA is still not following through and pursuing the matter.

· The Committee observed that the Commission had established the Internal Audit Committee and commended the Commission in the establishment of the Committee. Notwithstanding this achievement, the Committee was still concerned that issues identified by the AGSA’s office have not been fully dealt with.

· The Internal Audit Department audited 12 projects

· The Committee noted that there were 2 support staff dealing with auditing of all 9 Provinces and was concerned.

· The Commission noted that a greater staff compliment within the Audit Department would greatly aid the work output.

· The Committee observed that there were no people with disabilities employed in the Commission. This was unacceptable as the Commissioner with a disability was appointed on the basis of a parliamentary process from which the President appointed.

· The Commission acknowledged this short coming and endeavoured to prioritise the attainment of the 2% target for the employment of persons with disabilities.

· The Committee observed that the office environment was conducive for support staff to perform their duties but acknowledged challenges raised by staff regarding volume of work with limited capacity and ICT systems requiring upgrade.

· The Commission indicated that the staff was passionate and dedicated to fulfilling the mandate of the CGE however, staff were affected by the high volume of work and limited resources which impeded their ability to fully accomplish what was set out in the Strategic and Annual Performance Plan.

· The Committee noted that there was an overlap of activities insofar as the Commission’s Research Department and the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities’ Programme 2 is concerned. Furthermore, the Committee observed that the Commission was unaware of the policies which the Department produced to deal with gender mainstreaming, monitoring and evaluation as well as advocacy.

· The Commission acknowledged that it was unaware of the Department’s Overall Mainstreaming Framework, the Advocacy Strategy; the Institutional Support and Capacity Development Framework and the Integrated Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy.

· The Commission endeavored to improve its collaboration with the Department particularly with the WEGE programme.

· Large amount of work being done by legal officers, researchers and educations within provinces.

· The CGE acknowledged the constrains under which provincial staff work.

10. Conclusion

Having met with the Commission, the Committee emphasised the importance of the oversight visit and reiterated the importance of the interaction with support staff of the Commission. The Chairperson also indicated that the Committee noted that the Commission required additional funding to fully implement their mandate and achieve the objectives as outlined in the Strategic and Annual Performance Plan. The Committee also congratulated the Commission on the conditions of the working environment for staff as this has an impact on the work of the Commission. The Committee emphasised the need for awareness campaigns in order to market the Commission.

11. Recommendations

The Portfolio Committee recommended as follows:

On Litigation:

  • The Commission should review its approach for selecting cases for litigation given the exorbitant costs incurred. Instead litigation interventions should be pursued more on a strategic basis. Collaboration and partnerships with NGOs e.g. Lawyers for Human Rights, Legal Resources Centre should be enhanced. Mechanisms for expediting referrals to other Chapter 9 Institutions, Government Department and agencies should be explored so as to minimise the response time to clients; and
  • The Committee noted that the Commission was concerned about the withdrawal of cases especially in KwaZulu-Natal and requested the Commission to monitor such cases with the National Prosecuting Authority.

On Submission of Reports:

  • The Commission should forward the report on the role of traditional leaders on ukuthwala ;
  • The Committee also noted that the Internal Audit Committee reports on a quarterly basis to plenary of the Commission and encouraged the submission of monthly reports to deal with any urgent issues; and
  • The Committee requested the Commission to report to the Committee on the progress insofar as the implementation of the AGSA’s findings and turn-around strategy is concerned.

On Human Resources:

  • The Committee noted that the Internal Audit Department is operated by two support staff and urged the Commission to request assistance from the Auditor-General South Africa’s (AGSA) office with interns to deal with the volume of work;
  • The Committee urged the Commission to recruit people with disabilities rather than waiting for applications. In addition, it was also suggested that the Commission consults the Department of Public Service and Administration and ascertain whether CGE will be allowed to head-hunt people with disabilities to reach the 2% target of employment of people with disabilities; and
  • The human resource capacity within provincial offices needs to be enhanced.

On Intersectoral Collaboration:

  • Notwithstanding the importance of what the Commission had accomplished in dealing with cases cited during the presentations and those observed at the legal clinic, the Committee is urged to re-examine its criteria for deciding what cases to take up and to strengthen its mechanisms for collaboration with other Chapter 9 institutions as well as Government Departments and agencies.

Report to be considered.


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