South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) Annual Report 2008/09

NCOP Health and Social Services

15 February 2010
Chairperson: Ms R Rasmeni (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Acting Chief Executive Officer for the Department of Social Development and Social Security Agency (SASSA), Mr Coceko Pakade, briefed the Committee on the SASSA Annual Report for 2008/09. Its objectives were outlined along with the successes, difficulties and challenges. SASSA’S priorities were to improve on service delivery, operational excellence and good corporate governance. Emphasis was placed on the method of payment to minimise costs and to enhance safety.

SASSA had overspent by R 400 million which was a dire concern for the Committee. Questions were raised by members about irregular expenditure, recovery of fraudulent monies, compliance inspections, members of the community with HIV + status as well as food parcel replacements and the calculation of percentage grants to provinces. The Committee concluded that although it was happy with their achievements as well as their administrative functioning, the finances were a grave matter of concern and this needed to change.

Meeting report

South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) Annual Report 2008/09
Mr Vusi Madonsela, Director General, Department of Social Development, stated that there was a sizeable delegation present and that he was pleased to welcome a colleague from the National Development Agency, Mr Rueben Mogano.

Mr Coceko Pakade, Acting Chief Executive Officer for SASSA (permanent Chief Financial Officer, DSD), gave the presentation. He said that SASSA had faced challenges but had also achieved some successes. The presentation looked at the objectives of SASSA.
Achievements included implementing changes to the means test to allow more persons to access social assistance.

Mr Pakade spoke about the building of SASSA and the enormous challenges that came with it. He felt that there were still loopholes in the infrastructure and that various measures still needed to be put in place. The enhancement of integrity as well as the focus on payment automation were a key focus. He was proud to state that the turnaround time for processing of payments of grants was one day.

He stated that additional funds had been applied for. The benefits of the Improved Grants Administration
Process (IGAP) had already been evident in the Free State.

Mr Pakade listed what SASSA has managed to achieve in 2008/09, stating that growth was clearly evident. He made mention of the Customer Care Charter, the rights of the beneficiary as well as the education of the beneficiary. He stressed the need for improvement in payment services and highlighted inefficiencies, one being the lack of standardisation in the nine provinces. He said that such initiatives as well as introducing monitoring tools.

He felt that progress had been made but that there certainly was room for improvement in the next term. He felt that working closely with the Department would assist in achieving the goals, one of which was the challenges that pay points present. He mentioned the two factors being queuing and robberies. He suggested that banking services needed to be addressed as the risk and expense of carrying cash posed issues such as lives being threatened, insurance issues as well as heists at pay points. Thus he suggested that conventional methods needed to be rethought and that young people would work better on a card or an electronic payment system. The need for engaging banks was addressed.

Mr Pakade stated that dormant accounts as well as rural accounts would need to be migrated and that costs would be greatly reduced by paying into accounts via electronic means. He stated the difference between R 30 as the manual cost as opposed to R 5 being the electronic cost and that this would be one cost saver. He stated that Fraud Policies had been in place and that they had worked effectively in reducing the problem.

He said that in 2005 the Security Investigation Unit (SIV) had saved money for the state as public servants had been taken to task.

Mr R Mogand (NDA) proceeded to go through the financial analysis very briefly.

He mentioned that an action plan had been addressed for three matters, namely:
The decline of disability grants
Lapse and Movement of grants.
He stated that policy reforms had been implemented over the period 2008/09.

Mr Pakade stated that as of April 2010 the age of old age grants was to be changed to the age of 60 years for both men and women. He said that there was also a gradual expansion for children’s grants from 14 to 16 years.
He addressed the matter of Identification documents and made mention of the process that would enable social relief. He stated that rising prices had affected the poor adversely.

He said that the target breakdown had been reached of dispersing 568 000 food parcels, 128 700 school uniforms, 35 679 cash payments and 32 000 to “other”.

Ms Rasmeni congratulated SASSA for its high professionalism, the improved turnaround time as well as the attitude of the officials. She said that people had attested to that. She stated that the members would be given the opportunity to interrogate the delegates. She questioned them first on how they planned to resolve record keeping as well as what had happened to the food parcel program and whether something had replaced it. She also asked what had happened to the beneficiaries who no longer received them.

Mention was made of the Auditor General Objective Report. Concern was expressed about the amount of irregular expenditure, people who needed food and that this was unacceptable.

Mr M De Villiers (DA) asked for elaboration of the recipients who were receiving social relief grants. He said that it had been stated that the government wanted to give more money to the youth and he questioned how this was going to happen.

He said that measures needed to be implemented to recover money from fraudsters. Signing an agreement to return funds was a good idea but asked how it would be carried through.

Mr De Villiers also stated that the overspending of R 400 million was a concern and that if a model was not set up to follow up on expenditure every three months, SASSA would continue to overspend. Was such a model in place and who would implement it and follow it up?

He said that the expenditure was unacceptable and could not be condoned. He suggested that a group be set up to see that money is spent according to plan and that that was not a good message to send out into the community.

Ms D Rantho (ANC) asked if compliance inspections were implemented in all regions. She mentioned the Cutting Edge television program exposure would never have happened in her constituency if that had been the case.

She further questioned the grant for HIV+ people with a CD count of less than 200.

She stated that there were cases of old people who did not have identity documents but did have birth certificates and asked whether they could apply for a grant.

Mr Pakade responded saying that the matter of record keeping was spot on. He said that when one accounts to parliament, it generally results in a defensive reaction. He said that it was a costly exercise to keep records and that ideally they should be computerised. He mentioned that the system of MIS was working well in the Eastern Cape and the Free State. He said that the storage of hard copies in warehouses presented copies such as fire hazards. He said that the downside of computerising the records was that sensitive information could be exposed. Strict measures would need to be implemented in dealing with record management strategies. He said that more funds would be necessary but that none had been allocated for this purpose.

Mr Pakade said that they were seriously looking at reducing figures for handling costs of the payment of grants.

He suggested that the alternative method of electronic payments could reduce costs from R 2.5 million to R 1.9 million. He said that they would be embarking on such initiatives.

In terms of the irregular expenditure he did say that he agreed that procedures needed to be put in place to avoid corruption and that his expectation for 2010 was that the problem would be almost totally eradicated. He suggested that supply chain procedures needed to be strictly adhered to. He said that the SIV worked very well in the recovery of money from fraudsters. He said that this would be a tool considered by SASSA. He stated that all grants are recorded.

Mr Pakade said that he was currently working with the treasury to identify the overspending of R 400 million. He said that the monitoring was a problem and that he hoped to recoup the loss over the next three years. He projected a savings of R 250 million in the fourth year and that by then everybody would have migrated to the electronic system of payment.

He did inform the members that assistance is in place for foster grants and that social networks would eradicate collusion and corruption. He said that task teams were in place to detect corruption as well as to establish who is not receiving the grants that they should.

Mr Madonsela addressed the question of the HIV CD 4 count and stated that a person who is ill and not fit to work is entitled to a grant irrespective of whether the illness is HIV or not. He said that it is a challenge for those who need to wait for the processing and payment of grants.

He responded to the question about the replacement of food parcels saying that when it was discontinued, money had been granted nationally and thus should have been standardised. He said that these were called Integrated Social Development Grants and are for people who are struggling.

Mr Madonsela addressed the matter of the unemployed youth saying that work subsidies were not a part of social services. He stated that the Minister of Finance may address that in his budget speech 17 February 2010.

The Deputy Minister spoke about Social Workers and the difficulty of the job. She said that many of these people go to university and qualify as social workers in the hope of a good salary which doesn’t happen and that many then leave the profession to become other things such as air hostesses for SAA.

Ms M Moshodi (ANC) questioned the change of management.

Mr M De Villiers (DA) readdressed the concern for overspending. He stated that the situation in the community was of great concern. He referred to Loan Sharks. He said that such activities were even taking place within the Municipalities. He said that grants were already not enough to support families. He questioned whether there were plans to curb such activity within the community.

Mr De Villiers asked how the department decides on the percentage of grants issued. He stated that as the Northern Cape is the poorest province he would like to know how the percentage gets worked out.

Ms Rantho stated that various banks had been subpoenaed and that the only bank that did not comply was Italia. She questioned SASSA’S current dealings with the said bank.

She asked why when SASSA employs Social workers they took on the role of office and admin clerks. She stated that such jobs should be carried out by admin clerks and that social workers needed to do the jobs that they were employed to do.

Ms Rasmeni questioned the integration system and whether there was a method of evaluation in place to see if the expected results were yielded.

Mr Pakade responded saying that the need to change had been identified in terms of supply chain management. He said it was important to know why SASSA was established and what was expected of them.

It was suggested that a new way of doing business be inculcated at every level. The current poor state of finances was mentioned as well as the need for a financial injection.
He said that the OSD does not affect SASSA. He stated that doctors were giving quality medical assessments and that they were not doing clinical work. He furthermore stated that doctors need to understand SASSA’S policy.

In response to the question on the Northern Cape, Mr Pakade stated that the Northern Cape was very small and that based on the statistics of the population and the amount of people who reside there results in a proportionately lower percentage of grants. He said that there was a need for standardisation throughout all provinces.

Mr Pakade said that the current framework allowed beneficiaries the choice of payment methods. He said that the banks needed to cooperate and that a meeting was held with the Banking Association of South Africa. The result had been a positive willingness to work together. He stated that SASSA needed the power to dictate rather than to allow the choice of a payment system. The Bank of Italia had agreed to cooperate and assured SASSA that money in dormant accounts would be returned.

Mr Pakade said that social workers were certainly assisting children where they were placed.
On the matter of Loan Sharks he stated that the Financial Services Board needed to engage themselves with SASSA and that security agencies were also necessary to be brought on board. He said that beneficiaries needed to be educated about the functioning and perils thereof.

Ms Rhanto stated that she had had a meeting the previous day and that SASSA was absent as they did not have a program to follow. She said that all constituents present from all other departments were following programs. She expressed the need for working together on the ground level to benefit the community.

The Vice Chairman responded that there was a dire shortage of social workers. She said that the members of Parliaments needed to work with SASSA to raise matters and bring them to their attention. She noted the challenges and said that measures needed to be put in place and that she hoped that they would succeed.

Ms Rasmeni said that in general the committee was happy with the administration of SASSA. However the financials were still a worrying factor. She said that the agency was not to indulge in activities that create such high expenditure.

She said that visits were going to be made to the provinces starting with Limpopo at the end of March 2010. Pay points would be assessed and all offices would be informed of the visits.

She thanked the Minister for assisting the youth who are unable to get tertiary education and she suggested that the program be expanded upon and sustained.

She thanked everybody for attending and sharing their information.

The meeting was adjourned.


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