Women's dept gets less than what Nkandla upgrade cost

2017-05-23 19:31
(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - The department of women in the Presidency's budget allocation for 2017/18, which stands at R206m, is less than the government's R249m upgrade to President Jacob Zuma's private residence in Nkandla.

Of this budget, R78.3m goes to the commission on gender equality, leaving the department with an operating budget of R127.8m, according to figures presented to Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Women on Tuesday.

A figure of R71.9m (56.2%) is for "compensation of employees" and R52.1m (40.8%) goes to "goods and services".

The final draft of the report was being discussed amid national concern over violence against women and children and a fear by some that this is not being taken seriously enough.

In the 2016/17 financial year, the department allocated 57% and 39.9% of its operational budget to compensation for employees, and goods and services respectively.

READ: South Africa: A country where women and children end up as grim stats

Policy development

The main "cost drivers" under goods and services are travel and subsistence (R16.2m), property payments (R15.8m) and expenditure for external audit costs (R3.5m).

These add up to 68% of the goods and services budget and MPs on the committee expressed dismay at the amount the department was spending on property leases and auditing.

The department has 105 staffers for the 2017/18 financial year - 72 of those are administrative staff (68.5%), according to the report.

Thirty five staffers fall into the senior management salary band earning R41.3m between them, or "a unit cost of R1.2m per person", according to the draft report.

The department was established in 2014 to accelerate socio-economic transformation for women and gender equality by developing policies and "frameworks" to carry out this mandate.

It does not actually carry out service delivery.

As one MP explained: "They do not make the basket. They tell others how the basket should be made."

For example, for its free sanitary towel programme, it does not buy and distribute the sanitary towels.

Sanitary towels programme

It develops the policy that will support the programme which will keep female children in school when they menstruate instead of staying home on those days.

However, the committee was not pleased with the department's performance.

It expressed concern over an apparent dearth of interaction with other departments to discuss important gender issues, little or no input on gender aspects of legislation being drawn up, and outdated policies.

It was lambasted for not joining the committee's oversight visits to hear first-hand what women's issues are.

Instead, nine delegates from the department were sent to a UN conference in New York on the status of women, in spite of the department's tight budget.

"One of our concerns is that the department is under skilled and underutilised," said Democratic Alliance MP Terri Stander.

On the free sanitary towels programme to keep menstruating schoolgirls in class, there is still no indication on which department will do it, and how much it will cost, so it is unlikely to be up and running this year.

Stander also expressed concern over the department's planned "national dialogues" because the department did not say where these would be held, how much these would cost, who would address them, and whether there would be counselling services and police on hand to assist women who come forward for help.

She said it was not enough that the department promised a report after these dialogues, without even knowing what it was setting out to achieve.

"At the end of those dialogues, what are they going to tell us - 40 women suffer domestic violence? We know that.

"How is this intervention? How are these dialogues that we are spending this money on going to ultimately assist in preventing and eliminating violence against women?"


Read more on:    parliament  |  cape town  |  gender rights

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