Department of Social Development Strategic Plan & Budget Vote: Committee Report adoption

Social Development

30 June 2009
Chairperson: Ms Y Botha (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee discussed the draft Committee Report on the Strategic Plans and Budget Vote 16, of the Department of Social Development and its entities South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the National Development Agency (NDA).

Members made recommendations in relation to some of the concerns already highlighted in the Report, and also asked that others be included. Members had noted that the Department had received unqualified audit reports for the preceding four years. the Department, stating that the DSD had received unqualified audited reports for four years in succession. Reference should be included to the draft family policy and the imminent White Paper on Families. A number of points were made in relation to page 9. Reference had been made to the long waiting periods for approval of social grant applications, particularly in rural areas. Members wished to recommend that the services should be offered together with the Department of Home Affairs, since older people often did not have identity documents, noted that the mobile units did not reach the areas where they were most needed and that non-availability of staff had an impact. Members wanted it specifically stated in the Report that there must be improvements in service delivery in rural areas, as the social needs of the communities were not being met. They recommended that SASSA would have to increase the number of its mobile trucks to rural areas, and that additional resources must be made available. SASSA would have to brief the Committee and clarify the challenges faced. A one-stop shop was needed, drawing on a concerted effort by the Departments of Home Affairs, Social Development, SASSA and the local government. Another recommendation was for the establishment of community banks and even post offices in these rural areas. Members commented on the problems of people not knowing that they could access their grants if they moved to another province, and on the problem that non-South Africans were receiving payouts, and recommended that SASSA, the Department of Home Affairs and South African Police Service address the issues, particularly in border towns. Members would have to address oversight in the provinces in a creative way. Under partnerships, Members recommended that chiefs should be involved in the process relating to identity documents. It was noted that the means test was being reexamined, especially where one spouse received a pension. Members recommended that SASSA should get its own offices. With regard to the National Development Agency, Members wished to have reports on projects funded, and the late payment of Non Profit Organisations must be captured in the section on challenges. Non Government organizations should have financial management training and quality assurance should be done. The Committee also wished to comment on the present staff-dominance by males and to recommend that more females be placed at senior management level. The Committee Report was then adopted, with amendments.

Meeting report

Department of Social Development and entities: Strategic plans & budget: Committee Report
The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary, Ms Zola Vice, to read out the draft Committee Report (the Report) relating to the Strategic Plan and budget vote presentation of the Department of Social Development (DSD) and its entities.

The Chairperson then requested Members to give inputs on any suggested changes. She suggested that the Committee should note, on page 1 of the Report, the Budget Vote of the Department for 2009-10, as well as for the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period.

Members agreed to this suggestion.

Ms H Lamoela (DA) stated that Members had not been furnished with copies of the Report prior to this meeting, and hence there was no opportunity to take it back to their respective parties.

The Chairperson responded that Ms Vice had only received the draft Report back on Monday 29 June.
She noted that this was a Committee Report, not a party report. 

Ms Lamoela said that the draft Report did not reflect certain items; the DA had raised crucial concerns, which were not reflected.

The Chairperson wished to make a point about the financial management of the Department, stating that the DSD had received unqualified audited reports for four years in succession.

The Chairperson referred to page 3 of the Report, specifically to point (f), which dealt with the Department’s achievements relating to families. She said that a draft family policy was in the making and that a White Paper on Families would be finalised. Reference to both should be included under point (f).

Members had no problems with the contents of the Report from pages 4-8.

Several Members wished to comment on the Committee’s concerns as outlined on page 9 of the Report, and some wished to raise points that were not mentioned in the draft.

The Chairperson asked that Members should raise their concerns and also make recommendations.

The Chairperson noted that the draft made reference to the concern that the waiting periods for approval of social grant applications, especially in rural areas, were long. Members had felt that South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) needed to address the issue. The Chairperson pointed out that part of the problem was that SASSA did not have permanent office accommodation or set hours.

Ms W Nelson (ANC) stated that the service to be delivered should be done hand-in-hand with the Department of Home Affairs, as persons required identity documents when they applied for social grants. It should be a one-stop shop.

Ms H Makhuba (IFP) agreed with Ms Nelson. Older people often could not apply for their old age pensions because they did not have identity documents.

The Chairperson referred to the mobile trucks used by SASSA, and asked whether any officials from Department of Home Affairs were on board. She also asked how many trucks SASSA had per province.

Ms Theresa Smal, representative, SASSA, answered that Home Affairs officials were on board the SASSA trucks. She could not say how many trucks there were per province, as the numbers of trucks varied.

Ms Lamoela pointed out that the problem lay in getting the trucks to where they were needed. SASSA had been in existence for four years, and yet there still was no service delivery to remote rural areas.

The Chairperson said that there needed to be an improvement in service delivery in rural areas.

The Chairperson also highlighted issues relating to staff availability, in that officials were often not present at offices as they were required to man pay points. The non-availability of staff had a negative impact upon the poor.

Ms N Gcume (COPE) highlighted another concern about banks and post offices, saying that these needed to be taken to the people, who would then be able to make use of their services.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) said that there was a need for community banks. This would allow people to have better access to payout funds. This would also be much safer, as people would no longer need to travel long distances to payout points or banks.

Ms Lamoela raised a concern that SASSA had a vacancy rate of 60%.

The Chairperson summarised the concerns and recommendations from Members. She said that the concern about SASSA not reaching rural areas was noted. Its lack of visibility and sessional nature of visits was not good enough. The social needs of the community were not being met. The recommendation was that SASSA had to increase the number of its mobile trucks and thereby become a presence in rural areas.

Ms Lamoela asked if SASSA had 100 mobile trucks.

The Chairperson said that even 100 mobile trucks were not enough. Additional resources needed to be made available to SASSA. The Committee agreed to invite SASSA to brief members on its rollout, which was being done in collaboration with the Department of Home Affairs.

Ms Nelson said that the briefing should also shed light on what challenges SASSA faced.

Ms Lamoela said that oversight would be done, and that SASSA had been asked what its challenges were.

Ms Manganye said that a one-stop shop was what was needed

The Chairperson stated that there needed to be concerted effort by SASSA, the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Social Development, and even local government.

The Chairperson continued with the concern that banking facilities were lacking in rural areas for access by persons who were possibly eligible for social grants. Members wished to make a recommendation for the establishment of community banks and even post offices in these rural areas.

Ms Makhuba pointed out that a person making application in one area was limited to collecting his or her grant in that same area, which meant that if the grantee had left the area, a special trip back would be required in order to collect the grant.

The Chairperson asked that this point should perhaps be held back for the moment.

Ms G Saal (ANC) felt that the Cash Paymaster Services system was not working.

The Chairperson asked Members to hold back on new issues, so that the Committee could address the draft Report.

The Chairperson then reverted to the issue raised by Ms Makhuba, that a person would not be able to go to any pay point but must go to the original or usual point. She said that SASSA had to be informed when a person had moved to another area for a while, and arrangements could then be made for payouts to be made in that area.

Ms Smal confirmed that if SASSA was informed about a temporary move of a person to another province, then arrangements could be made for payments to be made in that new province.

The Chairperson noted that it was necessary to give SASSA this information, as there was the issue of beneficiary and software files. She said that there would be mistakes sometimes, and therefore that it was important for Members to get to know the regional managers within provinces.

Ms Gcume said that there were persons who received their social grant payments in provinces other than the one where they had made application.

Ms Makhuba said that the public was not generally aware that SASSA could be informed when persons were unable to collect at their usual paypoints.

Ms Manganye felt that the provincial system was best in order to combat fraud.

Mr V Magagula (ANC) said that persons from Mozambique and Swaziland who were not South African citizens were entering South Africa to collect social grants.

Ms Kopane was also concerned about the payouts to foreigners. She pointed out that most of the persons getting payouts in the Free State were from Lesotho.

The Chairperson said that the Committee noted the concerns. It recommended that SASSA, together with the Department of Home Affairs, should have a joint project to clean up the systems and ensure that no payments were made to non-South Africans, especially at border towns.

Ms Lamoela suggested that South African Police Service (SAPS) should be involved as well.

The Chairperson agreed that the Justice Cluster should get involved. SASSA, the Department of Home Affairs and SAPS would have to work together on the issue.

Mr Magagula said that foreigners obtained SA identity documents in order to claim social grants. Everyone was aware of what was going on. He suggested that community forums needed to get involved. The situation should not be allowed to continue.

The Chairperson asked Ms Smal to comment on the issue.

Ms Smal said that the judgment in the Khosa case should shed light on the matter, and she would forward it to Members. She explained that children could access grants if their parents worked in South Africa.

The Chairperson added that if foreigners had temporary asylum status, they also had access to grants such as the Child Support Grants.

The Chairperson asked Ms Smal to note all the issues raised by members. She said that members needed to work creatively on oversight in the provinces.

Ms Lamoela pointed out that there was one central tribunal to deal with complaints. She also noted that there were delays in dealing with appeals. 128 persons had to deal with close to 61 000 appeals. It was a matter of concern that only 13 269 had reached finality.

The Chairperson stated that SASSA had never complained about not being capacitated.

Ms Nelson asked who dealt with the appeals.

The Chairperson said that she thought the Department dealt with it, but the process was linked to SASSA. In view of the fact that this issue was only now being raised, she asked that Members hold back on further discussions for the moment on that topic.

Ms Manganye felt that chiefs should be involved in the process relating to the granting of identity documents to persons.

The Chairperson said that this point would be included under the recommendation for partnerships.

Ms Kopane raised the concern that sometimes people who had worked their whole lives did not qualify for old age grants, and would sometimes even lose homes that they had worked for all their lives, because of their dire financial situations.

Ms Lamoela responded that the issue revolved around the means test. She cited an example of a married couple, where only the husband received a pension, so that the wife, who might be a homemaker, remained financially dependent upon her husband. She did not qualify for a pension because her husband received one. She felt that a system other than the means test should be used for married couples and said that there was a need to empower older women.

The Chairperson said that the Department and SASSA were working on the issue. There was even a task team in Cabinet, as the issue was part of a larger debate about social security reform. She noted that the Committee needed to engage with various stakeholders. The means test currently looked at the duty of care of spouses.

Ms Lana Petersen, Parliamentary Liaison Officer, DSD, said that the issues related to customer education and entitlement. She noted that there were instances where adult disabled refugees were being given grants. Ms Petersen said that she would furnish the Committee with details of the Cluster Committee that was addressing the issue.

The Chairperson noted Ms Petersen’s comments and said that perhaps the Director General of DSD and the Minister should be asked to give a briefing.

Ms Lamoela asked whether a disabled child under the age of 18 could get a grant.

Ms Petersen responded that the child could get a care dependency grant, and on reaching the age of 18 this would be changed to an age dependency grant.

The Chairperson proposed that SASSA brief the Committee on the means test.

Ms Manganye commented that members were well aware of the issues raised in the meeting. She pointed out that SASSA was doing a great deal of good work. It was felt that SASSA should have its own offices.

The Chairperson agreed that it was time that SASSA moved away from the Department and stood on its own.

The Chairperson noted that issues and concerns pertaining to SASSA were now concluded.

Ms Nelson said that there were still many issues that needed to be discussed, but time constraints would not allow this in the present meeting.

She referred to the National Development Agency (NDA) and said that the Committee should raise concerns about the sustainability of projects. The NDA needed to provide the Committee with reports on projects that they had funded. In respect of social services, the late payment of Non Profit Organisations was of concern. The issue needed to be captured in the challenges as well as in recommendations.

The Chairperson asked whether the comments related to the impact of NPOs in the provinces.

Ms Nelson said that it did.

Ms Lamoela asked whether the Department expected substance abuse to increase during the 2010 World Cup. She felt that SAPS and the Department of Home Affairs should be involved in border control.

The Chairperson said that this question was very broad and that members could perhaps raise it during a debate. She also asked about social fallouts.

Ms Petersen said that the preparations for the 2010 World Cup were a standing matter. Problems around human trafficking, prostitution, public drinking and other issues were being looked at.

The Chairperson said that when the Department briefed the Committee on its Annual Report, it should also provide insight into the work that was being done with provincial departments on social issues.

Ms Kopane asked about the monitoring of Non Profit Organisations (NPOs).

The Chairperson recommended that national and provincial departments must capacitate Non Government Organisations (NGOs) with financial management training. She said that quality assurance should be done to ensure that NGOs were complying with service delivery standards; this should cover both value for money and compliance.

Ms Manganye said that there were many unregistered NGOs doing work at grassroots level.

Ms Lamoela agreed that NGOs were vital to communities, especially at grassroots level.

The Chairperson referred to older persons, noting that the Department had said that service delivery standards would be developed. This must, however, be done with the assistance of stakeholders.

The Chairperson pointed out that the senior management of the Department was dominated by males. She noted that there was one female Deputy Director General, and that there were no female regional managers in SASSA and the NDA. The Committee recommended that more females be placed at senior management level. Women should be placed in strategic decision-making positions.

Ms Gcume stated that the problem lay with the implementation of policies and legislation at provincial level.

Members then proposed, seconded and adopted the Committee Report, with the amendments proposed at this meeting.

The Committee agreed to deal with the Committee Strategic Planning Workshop issue when Parliament reconvened for the next term, as the recess started on 10 July.

The meeting was adjourned.

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