Do your homework, Xingwana tells DA
Pretoria - The department of women, children, and people with disabilities was not an "implementing agent but a co-ordinating and monitoring ministry", Minister Lulu Xingwana said on Tuesday.
Briefing reporters in Pretoria, Xingwana rubbished allegations submitted by the Democratic Alliance to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) calling for a probe into the department's "failure to protect the rights of the disabled".
Xingwana said the "misleading allegations" stemmed from people who did not understand the mandate of the department, established in May 2009 by President Jacob Zuma.
"At the beginning, many people did not understand this department. Now even the DA does not understand our mandate despite the fact that we have given them our reports and strategic plan in a bid to educate them.
"They still expect this department to operate on deaf children. They still expect this department to deliver grants for people with disabilities."
She said it was evident her department was affecting the lives of the vulnerable.
"I want to urge the members of the DA to do their homework, to understand the mandate of this department before they make public statements that are misleading to the nation," said Xingwana.
She said her department was ready for the investigation and would "welcome the SAHRC".
Xingwana conceded her department had not had a clean audit in three years, but said there were improvements in financial management, as evidenced by the unqualified audit received last year.
"This department is three-years-old and I have presided over it for one year. I think we all know that only three departments in government had clean audits last year."
She said that of the department's R142m annual budget, R55.2m was transferred to the Commission for Gender Equality, leaving the department with R86.9m, which was not enough to execute its mandate.
"Our budget is not sufficient for the work we need to do. We need more resources for us to effectively implement our mandate."
She said discussions were underway within the government about the need for additional funding.
"We need more people to do the work of the department. We have only one DDG [deputy director general], but we need at least three DDGs at least to be able to monitor women, children and people with disability," she said.
In its submissions, the DA said that evidence from the Third Quarter Expenditure Report for 2011/2012 showed the department would overspend on salaries, despite a 21% vacancy rate.
Xingwana said that although she did not have precise figures, salaries gobbled most of her department's budget.
"The department needs the experts and the necessary expertise does not come cheap. To date, posts are being filled continuously, programmes are being co-ordinated and monitored."
Travel costs on official business were another major cost incurred by the department: Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu will lead a delegation to New York in September for the annual conference of state parties.
Xingwana said R1.1m was spent by the seven department delegates who went to New York last year, and not the R6.8m claimed.
She said the other delegates were from Parliament, non-governmental organisations and other government departments, and their expenses were footed by their entities. On reports that some of the delegates did not attend the conference, Xingwana pleaded ignorance.
"I am not aware of who did not attend. If I can be supplied with the names of those who did not attend then I can be able to respond," she said.
Later on Tuesday, DA spokesperson Helen Lamoela said the SAHRC had confirmed its legal team would be assessing the case.
"She [Xingwana] certainly did not address our key concerns today. We look forward to further feedback from the SAHRC and findings of a comprehensive investigation into the poor performance of the department," she said.