Committee Annual Reports; Committee Programme and Overseas Tour: discussion

Social Development

02 February 2010
Chairperson: Ms Y Botha (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee approved its Annual Report for 2009. The narrative of the Report would be published after 31 March 2010 but the financial details would be omitted.

The minutes of the Committee meeting held on 17 November 2009 were considered and adopted. Nestlé had briefed the Committee on the poverty alleviation projects initiated by the company during the meeting. Members expressed the wish to have an ongoing relationship with Nestlé in order to ascertain the effects of the poverty alleviation projects.  Members were interested in the future developmental projects developed by the company as well.

The Committee discussed the report on the oversight visit to the Mpumalanga province.  The purpose of the Committee’s visit was to assess the progress of the Department of Social Development in Mpumalanga. The Committee had visited certain municipalities, evaluated projects funded by the National Development Agency, visited child-headed households, met with the MEC on Social Development, visited the Ixaba Older Persons Centre, Sizanani Home-based Care and manufacturing projects launched by the National Development Agency. The Committee had made several suggestions and recommendations concerning the various entities involved.  A Member was requested to visit the SOS Children’s Home in the province.

The Committee recommended that the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) submitted quarterly reports and included a regional breakdown.  Concerns have been raised over the movement of people across the country’s borders and the abuse of the social security system by foreign nationals. The issue of responsibility for the volunteers helping out at social security pay points was discussed. Complaints have been received from recipients of social security grants that the amounts paid out fluctuated from month to month but the grantees were reluctant to report the instances to the authorities. The problem of the presence of moneylenders and vendors at social security pay points was highlighted. The Committee recommended that the issue was debated in Parliament and that there was a stricter enforcement of the municipal bylaws regulating the operation of vendors on social grant pay days and that a greater role was played by the SAPS, the National Prosecuting Authority and SASSA in combating the problem.

Members expressed concern over the instances where foreign nationals from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh were fraudulently “married” to South African girls without their knowledge in order to obtain citizenship.

The Committee planned to undertake two to three overseas study tours during the year.  The Chairperson had scheduled a meeting with the Ambassador from the United States of America to discuss the planned study tour to the USA.

 

Meeting report

Annual Report of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development

Ms Zola Vice, the Committee Secretary, presented the Committee’s Annual Report to the Members.  The Committee’s Strategic Plan was compiled between 5 and 7 August 2009. Although the Strategic Plan was adopted by the Committee, it was not published. The Budget Vote Consideration was referred to the Committee on 5 June 2009 and the Committee Report was adopted and published on 3 July 2009. No Bills were considered by the Committee for the period under review. The Committee undertook oversight visits to the Western Cape and Mpumalanga provinces. The visit to the Western Cape took place on 9 September 2009 and the Committee Report on the visit was considered on 20 October 2009. The visit to Mpumalanga took place on 23 to 27 November 2009. The report on the Mpumalanga visit would be considered by the Committee during the meeting. No international visits were undertaken by the Committee for the period under review. The Strategic Plans of the Department of Social Development, the South African Social Security Agency and the National Developmental Agency for the period 2009-2012 were submitted to and adopted by the Committee. The Committee held 14 meetings during the period under review.

The Chairperson confirmed that the Committee Report had been circulated to the Members and that they were aware of the contents. The Report was formally adopted by the Committee.

The Chairperson did not think that it was necessary to table the Committee Report with ATC and asked the Members if they wished to have the Report tabled and published.  She felt that the Mpumalanga Oversight Visit Report should be tabled and published in order for it to be debated.

Ms H Malgas (ANC) asked what the norm was regarding the publication of the Annual Reports of Parliamentary Committees.

Ms Vice advised that certain Committees published their Annual Reports while others did not.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee’s Annual Report was published after 31 March 2010. The published version should only contain the narrative and the financial details should be omitted.

 

Adoption of Minutes of Committee Meeting

Ms Vice presented the minutes of the meeting held on 17 November 2009 to the Committee for consideration. The Committee was briefed by Nestlé during the meeting. The Committee requested that Nestlé provided the details of the NGO’s involved in programmes developed specifically for the benefit of children. The number of beneficiaries of the Kitchen Projects had to be provided as well as the list of the schools involved. Members wished to have an ongoing relationship with Nestlé in order to ascertain how the company could contribute towards meeting the 2010 targets for the alleviation of poverty. Members were also interested in the future plans and projects developed by Nestlé.

Ms Malgas remarked that Nestlé tended to limit the programmes to areas where the company’s factories were situated. She suggested that Nestlé was requested to communicate with the Committee via the Members’ constituency offices in order to foster a closer working relationship with the Committee.

The Chairperson agreed to Ms Malgas’ suggestion and said that Members would be able to identify where projects aimed at poverty alleviation would have the greatest impact. She agreed that Nestlé should widen the scope of projects to areas beyond the location of the company’s factories. She suggested that another meeting with Nestlé was scheduled in order to focus on the development of future poverty alleviation projects.

The Committee agreed to the Chairperson’s suggestion.

 

Report on the Oversight Visit to Mpumalanga Province

The Chairperson suggested that the Report was considered on a page-by-page basis in order to save time. 

The purpose of the Committee’s visit was to assess the progress of the Department of Social Development in Mpumalanga. The Committee visited certain municipalities and evaluated projects funded by the National Development Agency (NDA) in order to gauge the impact of the projects on the eradication of poverty. Members visited some child-headed households as well. There was a substantial backlog to place children in foster care in Mpumalanga as a result of HIV/AIDS. There were 3.6 million inhabitants in the province and only one social worker for every 3,000 persons. Recommendations made by the Committee on various issues were reconsidered and in certain instances further recommendations were made.

The Committee had met with the MEC on Social Development and had recommended that the low expenditure pattern of the Department in the province needed to be addressed. Another recommendation was that the Provincial Department be audited by the Auditor-General in 2010.

The Committee had visited the Ixaba Older Persons Centre. The Committee recommended that the relationship between the Department and the Centre was improved.  There was a need for building capacity and increased financial support of the Centre.

The Chairperson asked why no recommendations were made concerning Sizanani Home-based Care. She suggested that home-based workers were provided with kits that would assist them with performing their functions.

Ms S Kopane (ANC) said that caregivers were the responsibility of the Department of Health. The Department of Health shared joint responsibility with the Department of Social Development.

The Chairperson said that Sizanani was funded by the Department of Social Development. Home-based care workers falling under the umbrella of the Department of Social Development did not provide medical care per se but provided counselling.  She felt that the abuse of foster care grants should be considered by the Department. The negative perception of home-based caregivers was an issue that needed further attention and she suggested that the MEC addressed communities on the subject.

Ms Malgas pointed out that the SOS Children’s Home received a Government subsidy of R2100 per child per month.

The Chairperson said that R2100 was considered to be a reasonable amount but was inadequate if the cost of the maintenance of the home and the salaries of staff had to be covered by the subsidy as well. The Home faced many challenges. The approach adopted by the Home was a good one but she was concerned that the Home received both subsidies and foster care grants. The Committee recommended that the Home applied for exemption of the payment of school fees by the children under its care.

Mr V Magagula (ANC) was requested to visit the Home and to ascertain how many children were on the foster care grant system, how many children were housed in the Home and the financial state of affairs of the Home. The visit had to take place before the 31 March 2010.  Mr Magagula agreed to visit the Home and the Committee suggested that he was accompanied by the Head of Department on the visit.

The Chairperson advised that there was a service level agreement between the Department of Social Development and the SOS Children’s Home. A quality assurance report from the Department should be submitted to the Committee at the end of the financial year. The Department was responsible for carrying out monitoring and evaluation.

The Committee recommended that the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) submitted quarterly reports to the Committee. The reports had to include a performance report for each of the different regions. 

Concerns have been raised over the movement of people across the country’s borders. In particular, the movement of people between Swaziland and South Africa was a challenge. Members had to be kept informed of the investigation of grant abuse by foreigners by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). The Committee need to ascertain what action was taken by the Department.

The issue of volunteers helping out at social security pay points was discussed. In many cases, volunteers were not provided with meals whilst assisting at the pay points. The Chairperson felt that it was the responsibility of the service providers concerned to take care of volunteers. Volunteers did not receive payment as many were recipients of Government grants and their services were only required twice a month.

Ms N Gcume (ANC) agreed that the volunteers were the responsibility of the service providers. She remarked that certain recipients of social security grants complained that the amounts paid out fluctuated from month to month. She said that many people were too scared to report that the amounts received were less than what it should be. She recommended that the Department was informed of these instances.

The issue of the presence of moneylenders at social security pay points was highlighted. The Chairperson noted that this problem was encountered in both the Western Cape and Mpumalanga provinces. Moneylenders were often in possession of their clients’ identity documents and held the documents as security until the loan had been repaid. In many cases, the recipients of social security grants had to pay over the entire grant to moneylenders.

Ms Malgas suggested that the Committee make a strong recommendation concerning the presence of moneylenders at the pay points.

The Chairperson recommended that the South African Police Service (SAPS) applied a stricter enforcement of the Identity Act. The law was not enforced in a serious manner. It was necessary to make a few examples and both SAPS and the Department had to be held responsible.

Ms Kopane suggested that the bylaws of municipalities were reviewed to prevent people and vendors from congregating at pay points.

A further recommendation was that there should be a stricter enforcement of the municipal bylaws regulating the operation of vendors on social grant pay days. The Committee planned to recommend to Parliament that a greater role was played by the SAPS, the National Prosecuting Authority and SASSA in combating the problem.

The Chairperson advised that the NPA and SAPS would be invited to meet with the Committee in order to ascertain what action was planned to address the issue. Details of specific cases in the Western Cape would be forwarded to the NPA and the Committee could request the Ombudsman to investigate the legitimacy of moneylenders.

Ms Malgas asked if the issue could be debated in Parliament.

The Chairperson agreed with the suggestion and remarked that such a debate would warn criminals that criminal behaviour would not be tolerated.

Members had visited certain child-headed households during the oversight visits. The Committee recommended that the parents who abandoned their children were charged with abandonment. In such cases, a caregiver should be appointed or the children should be placed in foster care.

The Committee had visited manufacturing projects that were spearheaded by the NDA in Mpumalanga. The Committee was concerned that the goods manufactured were not adequately marketed. The Committee felt that the NDA should pay more attention to the building of capacity in this respect. With the assistance of the Department of Economic Affairs, the Department of Social Services should consider providing assistance with the marketing of the products concerned.

Ms H Lamoela (DA) commented that the Committee had made many recommendations but the issue was whether any monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the recommendations would be done.

The Chairperson said that the monitoring and evaluation of projects should be done by Government.  In terms of quality assurance, the question was whether there was adherence to service standards and legislation. It was especially relevant where organisations were funded by Government. She suggested that the Department engage with the traditional leaders in the border areas in an attempt to curb the abuse of the grant system by foreign nationals. The practise of persons using the identities of others to obtain grants should be stopped. Border control also needed to be tightened.

Mr Magagula was concerned about cases where foreign nationals from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh were fraudulently married to South African girls in order to obtain citizenship. The girls were not even aware that they were married as far as the Department of Home Affairs was concerned. The girls discovered the “marriage” only when they applied for Government grants.

The Chairperson said that the Department of Home Affairs should interact with SASSA in order to deal with the issue. The Department of Home Affairs should make it easier for the innocent females involved to annul these bogus marriages. More detail was needed in order to bring the matter to the attention to the Minister of Home Affairs.

The Committee approved the Report on the oversight visit to Mpumalanga, with amendments.

 

Adoption of the Committee Programme

The Committee Programme for the period 25 January – 28 March 2010 was adopted by the Committee.

 

Proposed Overseas Tour to the United States of America

The Chairperson advised that she would meet the US ambassador to South Africa on 15 February 2010 to discuss a possible study tour to the USA by the Committee.  UNICEF should be engaged about a possible study tour by the Committee as well. The intention was for the Committee to embark on the study tour before March or April 2010. She suggested that the Committee attempted to obtain sponsorship for the study tour from a United Nations agency. The Committee planned to undertake two or three overseas study tours during the year.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

 

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