The Department of Social Development (DSD) had a well prepared slide presentation of its strategic plan for the current period up to 2015, and its budget for the current year up to the end of the MTEF period in 2013. However, the written strategic plan was not available to the media until after it would be tabled in Parliament later in the week. The Department outlined its plans to build a comprehensive social security system, increase institutional capacity, and bolster initiatives aimed at poverty eradication. These were amongst its priorities and planning for the next three to five years. The presentation also drew attention to DSD’s achievements and challenges. It aimed to exceed its target of creating 150 000 job opportunities, as part of the Expanded Public Works Programme. Challenges were listed as including the impact of poverty and unemployment. The increases to the baseline funding were noted to 2013. A description of the work done by each of the programmes was given.
Members raised a number of concerns, most notably whether previous goals had been achieved as stated in previous years’ strategic plans. They also wondered if the budget was realistic, and if the basic requirements for the goals to be met were in place, and if there was funding in place. In regard to the budget, Members questioned the reasons for the savings, which they were not sure were appropriate, given the needs, but were assured that these resulted not from curtailing programmes but maximising efficiency in regard to funding. Members also questioned the timeframes, and whether these were visible, achievable and appropriate, but these would not be seen until the detailed strategic plan, to be released only in the following week, had been presented. There was a measure of pride in the fact that the DSD had over-achieved its target of creating 150 000 job opportunities. A member said that it would have to be sustainable and it was hoped that this would be one of the questions answered in writing with more detail. Members asked what the DSD was doing in relation to the Older Person’s Act and the Child Justice Act. The Special Advisor to the Minister, in answer to some questions, set out in detail the situation pertaining to the poverty stricken and destitute in South Africa and compared the position in this country to other countries, where re-skilling ensured that people who found themselves unemployed could manage to secure other employment. A more detailed response would be provided to Members in writing.
Department of Social Development (DSD) Strategic Plan and Budget 2010 to 2013
Mr Bulumko Nelana, Chief Director, Department of Social Development, noted that when the Department of Social Development (DSD or the Department) planned, it was constitutionally mandated to develop and implement programmes which eradicated poverty, and provided social protection for the poorest of the poor and vulnerable and marginalised citizens. He then listed the legislation from whence the mandate was derived, including the Older Persons Act of 2006 and the Children’s Act of 2005.
The platform from which the key priorities and strategies operated was the DSD’s structure. Broadly, it consisted of branches, which would develop programmes, each of which had certain strategies.
The broad themes included youth development, child poverty and older persons’ poverty. The Committee heard DSD’s plans to build a comprehensive social security system, increasing institutional capacity, and how it would increase its initiatives aimed at poverty eradication. These were amongst its priorities and planning for the next three to five years. The presentation also drew attention to DSD’s achievements and challenges. Among these was exceeding its target – as part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) – of creating 150 000 job opportunities. Amongst its challenges was the extent of the impact of poverty and unemployment, which was an acknowledgement of the many poor and vulnerable households in our society.
Ms Dorothee Snyman, Acting Chief Financial Officer, Department of Social Development, looked at the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) allocation of funds to all the programmes and noted where there were increases for the current year and period to 2013. There were increases to the baseline funding in each respective year by 11%, 10% and 7%. Earmarked allocations were those which could not be used for any other purpose than agreed to.
Other members of the delegation elaborated on the programmes in the branches by describing the work that was done in each.
Ms W Nelson (ANC) pointed out that the timeframes for implementation were not apparent. She said that for example some programmes may only be implemented by 2014. She wanted to know, starting at year 2010, which goals would be reached by which year.
The Chairperson said in response that the DSD’s strategic planning document (which would be tabled this week but was not available to the media beforehand) detailed the timelines.
Ms H Malgas (ANC), asked what the progress was with the Human Trafficking Bill, as it related to prostitution. She also asked why, looking at slide 60, there was a saving with regard to funding for the National Development Agency (NDA). She noted that there was a pressing need to address poverty and she felt that all monies should be spent to attain that goal. She further asked that slide 64 be clarified, because DSD did not clearly say whether there was a roll over of funds for capital assets.
Ms Malgas asked, with regard to the Child Justice Act, whether the DSD was working on making input into regulations. Lastly, she asked what the DSD’s state of readiness was with regard to the Children’s Act.
A Member asked whether employees of DSD were happy with their conditions of employment, noting that this Department seemed to have a major challenge in retaining skilled people. She was referring to the item “compensation of employees” in Slide 64. She said that she shared Ms Nelson’s concerns about the timeframes for the implementation of programmes in the strategic plan. She suggested that a workshop would be needed to understand the work of the provinces in relation to her question.
Ms H Lamoela (ANC) asked whether the previous years’ strategy plans had been achieved, and if not, why not. She wanted to understand why there was a roll over of funds. She said that she questioned the process of monitoring and evaluation, especially since her experience of an incident in Durban recently left her with some concerns. The recipient of a food parcel had been told that he had to pay back the value of the parcel received.
Ms Lamoela said that dependency on the State was on the rise, and questioned what DSD would do to address this. She said that in Germany, for example, there was a system that taught skills, so that the destitute were not left dependent on the State for protracted periods, and could more easily find employment because they had been re-skilled. She was also concerned that there may be insufficient funding for the strategy plans to be properly carried out. She gave the example of a project in Mpumalanga that took care of HIV positive people, where the caregivers had no surgical gloves to carry out their work. She said that therefore the strategy plan needed to be realistic. Finally she said that the creation of job opportunities needed to be sustainable and wanted to hear the DSD’s response on this.
The Chairperson responded that according to the report of the DSD, which would come before the Committee in April, 97% of the strategy plans of the past year had been achieved. With regard to strengthening the capacity to deliver services, as mentioned on Slide 38, she asked how the national and provincial roles would be enhanced. In relation to the population policy she wanted to know whether DSD would engage with other sectors to achieve that work. She praised the Integrated Development Plans, but said that clarity was needed on whether the provincial units were up and running needed to be made clear. She wanted to know what DSD was doing to promote its policy and work. The savings and baseline deductions for 2011 needed to be clarified, as also whether DSD was being penalised for making a saving.
The Chairperson shared the same concern as Ms Malgas with regard to the capital assets, as well as the matter of regulations pertaining to the Older Person’s Act. She noted that the Child Justice Bill as well as the Human Trafficking Bill would be presented to the Committee. She asked what the word “excluded” meant in the vision and mission statement.
Dr Maria Mabetoa, Deputy Director General, Department of Social Development, said in response that some of the questions would be replied to today, but that others needed more detail, and the replies would therefore be given in writing. She said that the outputs were detailed in the strategy plan, but that the timeframes consisted of more than just an annual goal-setting. The detail needed to be engaged with, in the operational plans of the various sub programmes. With regard to domestic violence the aim was to provide support and shelter and to provide a plan to make it possible to receive victims. The Child Justice Bill would provide for a provincial probation officer, the diversion programme, and well as home based supervision.
Mr Zane Dangor, Chief Operating Officer, DSD, and Acting Special Advisor to the Minister, addressed the issues of child poverty and the grant system. He said there was a maintenance strategy in place. He said that the child support grant may be perceived as creating dependency, but in fact the growth in demand was an indication of the high level of poverty. Information on what drives the demand shows a lack of education, opportunity, and work, amongst others. The old age grant showed different reasons for demand, whilst the child support grant was also driven by a variety of reasons. The creation of job opportunities by DSD aimed to provide for a minimum of basic survival. A second way that the dependency was reduced was that the amount of R300 was still very small. It was also found that there was no disincentive to becoming independent and that beneficiaries generally wanted to work. The research showed that where cash was available a beneficiary was more likely to seek employment. Another benefit was that children were more likely to attend school because nutrition was available. He said that the difference between South Africa and Germany was that the destitute in Germany were probably already skilled, which made their situation temporary, whereas in South Africa the situation was more systemic. To help absorb the problem, investment in the economic structure was required, and this would reduce the demand for grants. Direct assistance was possible by investing in skills development, which would increase economic growth. He said the population policy was well respected.
With regard to the social policy and migration the DSD worked closely with Statistics South Africa to keep informed on this matter.
The word “excluded” referred to beneficiaries who were unemployed, and did not refer to exclusion based on gender, race, or whether someone is disabled or not.
Mr Dangor noted that in South Africa, unemployment was at 36%. This, however, did not mean that 64% were well off. The “working poor” had a job and an income but still received social assistance. 75% of black youth, between the ages of 19 and 24, were unemployed. The economy had failed to absorb this sector satisfactorily, and from the viewpoint of DSD, this was the fundamental issue. In the mining sector 900 000 jobs were lost due to the economic meltdown. Amongst these there were many breadwinners. The DSD had made its own attempt at generating jobs, for example through the creation of community development workers. He concluded that social grants served society in a positive way, contrary to some beliefs. He cited the example of teenage pregnancy, which had decreased rather than increased over the past few years.
Ms Snyman responded to the question on capital expenditure, saying that the saving was for the current financial year. On the issue of employees’ compensation she said that funding may not be enough, since in the provinces DSD was undertaking a large expansion. The funding was for current employees and for this reason she urged caution. She said that this government had agreed to do things differently, and a positive step was the integration of services. The deductions came about as a result of efficiency savings, and these were all baseline savings.
Mr Eugene Webster, Chief Director, DSD, said that provinces were hard pressed to implement human capital plans and a vigorous recruitment drive would be done. Another remedy towards the skills shortage was DSD’s scholarship programme.
Ms Patricia Maloka, Deputy Director General, DSD, spoke on the Appeals Tribunal, saying that there were two main institutions – the independent tribunal and the inspectorate. The Tribunal’s budget over the MTEF period was just over R140 million. She said it had been acknowledged that the national model was not accessible, and the new strategy was to open regional offices. There was already one in KwaZulu Natal. However, this shortcoming did not mean this branch was not functioning. Outreach programmes continue to operate alongside South African Social Services Agency (SASSA). The strategy in dealing with the backlog of appeals was successful. She offered to respond in writing to any further questions within this branch, especially in relation to its function in the provinces.
The Chairperson said that it was noted that some of the questions raised today would be responded to in writing, and added that this was not the conclusion of the interaction with DSD. She said the Committee would look further into the two pieces of legislation; namely the regulations for the Older Person’s Act and the Child Justice Act.
The meeting was adjourned.
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