Annual Report briefing by Department of Social Development

NCOP Health and Social Services

02 November 2009
Chairperson: Ms R Rasmeni (North West, ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development presented its Annual Report for 2008/09 to the Committee. This Department premised its strategies and services on services that dealt with assisting society to deal with poverty, including addressing the factors that gave rise to and sustained poverty, inequality and social discord. Its Strategic Priorities were named as tackling child poverty, tackling adult and older persons' poverty, youth development, social cohesion, civil society support and strengthening of communities, governance and institutional development, and regional and international solidarity and development. The five programmes were set out and explained. It was noted that social insurance was a key programme, and here the Department had appointed a steering committee including representatives from South Africa, Zambia and Swaziland, as it was felt that it was important to have a regional African focus on issues of social security. Social Assistance was the major budget area, and the Department explained the grants and how these had been amended over the last year. A policy on Social Assistance for people with chronic diseases was developed and taken for consultation in the Social Cluster Task Team. Both men and women would now qualify for old age grants from 60 years of age. The provision of Social Relief of Distress budget was increased by R500 million. The Child Support Grant now ran up to the age of 15. The components of Social Welfare Services were described. Strategies to combat child abuse, neglect and exploitation included a contract and advisory initiative with the Child Welfare League of Canada. The Department had developed a  draft community development framework, and was holding discussions with all spheres of government on their role in and approach to community development. It had worked with the Department of Agriculture to set up vegi-tunnels and was working on further proposals for fruit plantations. It had introduced the total value chain poverty alleviation model. It was also working with the youth, to try to get them to actively participate in both their own and community development. It had drawn on programmes pioneered in Cuba for social workers’ assistance to communities. The Strategy and Governance programme was dealing with support services. It was promoting research and policy development, and once again was participating with other countries in the region to try to join forces and formalise relationships. The international participation was also set out in the Report. The Department had further developed a sector infrastructure framework and toolkit to facilitate infrastructure planning and implementation.

The Department briefly described the financial statements, pointing out that it had spent 99.4% of the allocated budget, and that it had once again received an unqualified audit report. Although there were two matters of emphasis raised, both were outside of the Department’s direct control. Since the Department received the money for social security, and then transferred it to SASSA, it retained responsibility for SASSA’s performance.

Members noted that there was still no appearance by this stage of the Deputy Minister. In addition, the Minister, Director General and Chief Financial Officer had all been called to a meeting of the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee. The Committee decided it would be a futile exercise for it to continue with engagement, without the political heads and accounting authority being present. The Committee would write to the Office of the Minister, the Deputy Minister, the Chief Whip and the Speaker, to raise the Committee's concern and disappointment at the manner in which it had been treated by the Department.

Meeting report

Department of Social Development (DSD) Annual Report briefing
The Chairperson announced that the Deputy Minister would be joining the meeting shortly.

Mr Zane Dangor, Chief Operations Officer, National DSD, briefed the Committee on the Overview and Programme Performance of the Department for the financial year 2008/09.

He noted that the Department premised its strategies and services on services that dealt with assisting society to deal with poverty, and strategies to deal with factors that gave rise to and sustained poverty, inequality and social discord.

The Strategic Priorities were named as tackling child poverty, tackling adult and older persons' poverty, youth development, social cohesion, civil society support and strengthening of communities, governance and institutional development, and regional and international solidarity and development.

Mr Dangor set out and explained the five programmes of the Department. Programme 2: Comprehensive Social Security had Social Insurance as one of the key programmes. A steering committee comprising representatives from South Africa, Zambia and Swaziland was appointed, and its Terms of Reference agreed on. The office hosted an international seminar on extending access to social security on the African continent. Mr Dangor stressed the importance of having a regional African focus on issues of social security and representatives on that institution.

Social Assistance was the big budget area of the Department. Children's Benefits included the Child Support Grant (CSG), which was being extended to children until their fifteenth birthday with effect from 1 January 2009. The value of the grant was increased from R210 to R230 per month. In terms of Disability Benefits, a policy on Social Assistance for people with chronic diseases was developed and taken for consultation in the Social Cluster Task Team and also to several other stakeholders. The Older Persons Benefits had recently been affected by the amendment of the Social Assistance Act, to equalise the qualifying age for old age grants between male and female applicants, which enabled males to receive the grant from 60 years. The old age grant was also adjusted from R940 to R960 per month. The provision of Social Relief of Distress budget was increased by R500 million to shield the poor from undue hardships caused by rising food prices and the economic recession.

Programme 3: Social Welfare Services included Child Care and Protection Services, Drug and Substance Abuse, Services to People with Disabilities, Service Standards and Services to Older Programmes. A South African Plan of Action on Aging was developed. There was also Social Service Provider Management and Support.

Mr Dangor described the Strategies to combat child Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation. He noted that a contract was signed between DSD and Child Welfare League of Canada (CWLC), and a detailed project plan was submitted by CWLC, who would act as the technical expert on the study on child abuse and neglect.

Other initiatives included policies on Alternative Care, Services to Children and Young People, programmes to address Families, the Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP) and Social Crime Prevention. The Department also had policies on HIV/AIDS

Under Programme 4: Community Development, the DSD had developed a draft community development framework. The importance of developing this framework was that over R20 billion was spent on community development throughout government per annum, of which DSD received about R140 million. DSD needed to spearhead discussion amongst government and other stakeholders as to what the role of government was in community development and what its approach should be across all spheres to community development. DSD was also working on Sustainable Livelihoods. DSD had participated in provincial launches of the War on Poverty campaign, which was spearheaded by the Presidency, and was represented in the National Task Team of the War Room on Poverty.

DSD facilitated the construction of twenty vegi-tunnels in Ga-Kgatla Village in Limpopo, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and the office of the Premier; and also facilitated the construction of sixty vegi-tunnels in North West, Limpopo and Eastern Cape provinces. A proposal for fruit trees to support deforestation, food security and greening in three learning sites, which were located in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and North West, had been submitted to the then-Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. The proposal was approved and would be rolled out during the 2009/10 financial year.

DSD also introduced the total value chain poverty alleviation model using a hemp project in the Eastern Cape to demonstrate the potential of the model in poverty alleviation, and the first phase of the model had been successfully implemented in East London.
In respect of its work on youth, DSD had developed a framework and six modules for the Masupatsela Youth Pioneer Programme, in the process of trying to take youth from being active recipients of development to being active participants, not only in their own development but also in the community initiatives. The curriculum was a value shaping curriculum based on a similar programme that had been developed in Cuba for social workers, particularly young social workers. This was not defined by the profession in advance, but was rather but defined but what they did in the community. Ten Cuban experts were interviewed and selected for deployment and a contract between DSD and Cubatechnica was signed. In addition, 2 114 youth pioneers were recruited and oriented, while 1 754 pioneers participated in the War on Poverty initiatives.

Mr Dangor moved on to describe Programme 5: Strategy and Governance. This programme dealt with support services that also had line function responsibilities in terms of the White Paper on Population Development. Special Projects Coordination rested almost exclusively with the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

The Social Policy Unit was headed by the Deputy Director General, as were the Independent Tribunals.

In order to promote the research-policy nexus and promote evidence-based policy making in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, DSD embarked on a process of securing 'joint leadership and ownership' with other countries in the region, which would allow the holding and hosting of conferences and workshops in countries committed to this initiative. The purpose of the social policy was to infuse an evidence-based approach to policy making and programme development. With the adoption of the Draft SADC Regional Social Policy Framework, DSD initiated a network of policy makers and high-level civil servants in countries such as Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and Mauritius. DSD was moving towards formalisation through holding of annual events.

The Joint Policy +10 and International Country Development Programme (ICDP)+15 reports were very important policy instruments in the international world that DSD was signatory to, and it had subsequently reported to the United Nations on these reports.

Mr Dangor noted that, although this was not listed in the Annual Report, DSD and other departments had revisited the value of only funding income-generating projects, and had discussed challenges around the cooperatives approach.

In terms of Strategy, Planning and Development and Risk Management, Mr Dangor noted that the DSD had developed a sector infrastructure framework with a toolkit to facilitate infrastructure planning and implementation. This would have an impact upon the social sector backlogs that were found in terms of offices, infrastructure for social workers to deliver their work, and South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) ability to deliver quality services. He emphasised that there were currently large backlogs in all of these areas.

Key achievements in the field of international obligations were that the Minister undertook eleven international official visits, the bulk of which dealt with his role as the Chair of UNESCO. This brought together ministers of social transformation and development across the globe, who began to look at collaborative policy. Through this programme DSD was also a government representative on both Labour and Social Development at the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Most of the international related travel was in support of the community services or social welfare component of the Department's work and its international obligations in relation to that area of work, which included the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

At this point, the Chairperson noted that the Deputy Minister had still not arrived. The purpose of holding this interaction with the Department was that the political heads could engage on issues of the Department, when interrogating the Annual Report of the Department and its finances of the department. She felt that without the political head being present, the time would be wasted.

The Committee called for a five-minute break to check whether the Deputy Minister was still intending to attend.

On resumption, Ms M Makgate (ANC, North West) expressed her concern that the Minister and Deputy Minister, as political heads, were not present, and the Director General, the accounting officer, was also not part of the meeting. She felt that this was undermining the NCOP.

Mr Mashamaite supported that. He proposed that the meeting should not continue, so that the two political heads understood the seriousness of the situation.

Mr Dangor explained that the Minister and the Director General (DG) could not be present because two sets of meetings were running concurrently, both on Annual Reports. SASSA’s Annual Report was being presented in the National Assembly and the Portfolio Committee had required the Minister and the DG to attend. The Department’s Chief Financial Officer was also acting as the CFO for SASSA. SASSA had only an Acting CEO in place at present. The Deputy Minister was also at a meeting at Tuynhuis and an attempt was made to call her out of that meeting. He had apologised to the Chairperson earlier for this situation

Mr M de Villiers (DA, Western Cape) was very disappointed at the DG and the two Ministers not being present. He proposed the Committee raise its objections to the Chair of the NCOP and to ask him to write a letter to the Speaker and the President about the situation. The NCOP should not be taken for granted. It was also part of government and interested in doing its work. Members represented their provinces and had to report back to them.

Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) said it was not the Ministers' fault that there was a conflict in the two meetings, but that this should be sorted out between the heads of the two Houses. He indicated that if this meeting was brought to a halt, it would cost government and taxpayers a lot that would be wasted. He suggested that the meeting continue, but that questions be posed to the Minister or the DG for a reply in writing.

Ms Makgate agreed that it was fruitless expenditure and the Department was expected to account.

Mr S Plaatjie (COPE, North West) supported the continuation of the meeting but also stressed that although the NCOP dealt with different issues, it was also part of the National Parliament and must be accorded due respect.

Ms M Boroto (ANC, Mpumalanga) also supported continuing with the meeting, but pointed out that there was another issue of time constraints, as Members had other programmes to attend.

The chairperson said she had just received a note to say the Deputy Minister was on the way.

Ms Mncube proposed that the presentation continue, as the Deputy Minister could be there for interaction on the report.

Continuation of presentation
Ms Dorothy Snyman, Acting as Chief Financial Officer, DSD, presented the financial report. She reported that the Department had spent 99.4% of its allocated budget, with a net saving of R457 million. The bulk of the money was transfers to households, which were social assistance grants paid through SASSA.

Of the R440 million budgeted, DSD managed to spend 99.25%, with a surplus of R3 million. The bulk of that money, at 56%, was allocated to goods and services,  at R242 million, with compensation being at R184 million.

Ms Snyman asked Members to note the move of the social assistance function to the National DSD. This had resulted in quite a complex arrangement where the money for the social grants, R71 billion, was voted to the National Department, so the National Department stayed accountable for the money. That money was however transferred to SASSA, who administered the monies on behalf of DSD. Because of that arrangement, any shortcoming or failure that may exist in SASSA's internal control systems would have a direct impact on the findings of the National Department's financial statements.

Ms Snyman tabled a list of the areas where there had been unspent funding.

She noted that the Department had received an unqualified audit for the seventh year in a row. There were two emphases of matter, as noted by the Auditor-General (AG) but both were effectively out of the Department’s direct control. She then described what the Department was doing to ensure a proper and correct audit outcome for the following year.

The Chairperson noted at this stage that the Committee had still not succeeded in getting hold of the Deputy Minister. For that reason, she suggested that it would be futile for the Committee to try to engage further with the report. The Committee would write to the Office of the Minister and the Deputy Minister, the Chief Whip and the Speaker, to raise the Committee's concern and disappointment at the manner in which it had been treated by the Department. It expected that next time it called the Department to engage with it, all the politicians would be present.

The open part of the meeting was adjourned.



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