Department of Social Development response to issues emanating from the State of the Nation Address

Social Development

21 February 2011
Chairperson: Ms T R Botha (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development and the South African Social Security Agency presented their high-level plan for dealing with the issues that emanated from the State of the Nation Address. Their presentation dealt with the key issue of job creation. They focused on actions that would lead to the creation of both direct jobs within the social services sector and indirect jobs in organisations that the Department could influence. The Department also reviewed existing programmes that could be expanded in ways that would create job stability and enhance youth development. Short term actions included filling all funded vacant posts within government. Long term actions would link social grants to economic activity and community development.

Other strategic responses included a renewed fight against corruption, fraud, HIV and AIDS. The Department presented plans to prioritise crimes against women and children and renew campaigns against substance abuse.

Members' questions focused on the Department’s implementation plans for some of the actions raised in the presentation. Vacancy rate figures were questioned, specifically querying if the stated rates represented funded positions only or included unfunded vacant posts. Much emphasis was placed on the status of filling strategic positions with Department, South African Social Security Agency and National Development Agency. Members noted that some posts had been filled by people in acting positions for too long.

Members also queried if the Department was working with other departments on these issues.

The Department noted that this presentation was a high-level outline of its strategic responses to the State of the Nation Address. Many more details would be forthcoming when the budget and strategic plan was presented to the Committee in the near future.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the committee to the meeting. She welcomed the Director General of the Department of Social Development (DSD), the CEO of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the officials of DSD. She reviewed the apologies and noted that the Minister and Deputy Minister of Social Development were unable to attend.

The Chairperson indicated that the deliberations and adoption of the Committee Report on the Report by the South African Human Rights Commission would be held over until the next meeting.

Presentation by the Department of Social Development
Mr Vusi Madonsela, Deputy Director of the Department of Social Development (DSD) announced that Mr R Hlatshwayo, Director of Strategy, would give the presentation detailing the strategic issues that emanated from the State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Mr Hlatshwayo noted that the central theme of the Address was job creation. He emphasised that DSD had been working towards job creation for the last two years. In particular, the social sector created 206 421 work opportunities in 2009/10 against a target of 80 000. Also, under the Expanded Public Works Programme 2, the sector created 101 055 jobs against the set target of 96 000. DSD played a key role in programmes such as the Early Childhood Development (ECD), which were the main contributors to these job figures. Mr Hlatshwayo outlined the job targets for the next four years and assured the Committee that they were well on track to achieve the 2011/12 goal of 132 000 jobs.

Mr Hlatshwayo noted that DSD had committed to dealing with the issues of job creating in two ways. First, they would look at direct, permanent jobs that could be created through the filling of funded and vacant posts within the department, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the National Development Agency (NDA). They would look at mainstreaming of EPWP into more service delivery interventions. They would do capacity building across the sector in the area of training, learnerships and employment support and create a 'skills advancement centre' that would take an unemployed graduate through an intense programme to qualify as a Statutory Social Work para-professional.

Second, the Department would pursue indirect, permanent jobs. The Department would reform the funding policy for non government organisations (NGOs) to fund programmes that focused on creating jobs. They would also direct funding to social infrastructure facilities that could provide jobs throughout the entire value chain of the project. Internally, DSD would look at its supply chain management in order to promote local procurement, especially from Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) that employed and/or were owned by women, people with disabilities and the youth.

Mr Hlatshwayo stated that in order to focus on decent work, the DSD would be safeguarding EPWP workers conditions of service. The DSD had also introduced an Incentive Grant allocation in the EPWP which would allow for the elimination of unpaid beneficiaries. Also, social insurance initiatives would enhance the quality of existing jobs through the introduction of mandatory pension, disability and survivor benefits and incentivise the formalisation of employment through tax subsidisation of retirement contributions.

The Department's job creation drive should enhance youth development. To achieve this, they would facilitate the establishment of 90 Social Cooperatives in support of the National Rural Youth Corps. In addition, the DSD would share their research with other departments to promote the opportunities posed by a youthful population.

The Department had put a priority on filling all funded vacant posts. The vacancy rate of the department was 9 percent. This was down from 15% two years ago. The Department committed to reduce this rate to 5% in the 2011/12 financial year and work towards a 3% vacancy rate by 2014. He noted that achieving a rate below 3% was very difficult, as this would represent the perpetual lag in the process of filling vacant posts.

The Department was continually strengthening its processes in order to comply with the 30 day payment period of SMMEs as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act. The Department continued its fight against corruption. SASSA would be implementing an electronic benefits management system that would address the serious problems of fraud and error in the grants payment system. Mr Hlatshwayo noted the use of biometrics may be introduced in the future.

Research should assist the Department in dealing with the social determinants of HIV and AIDS. This work would be in conjunction with the Department of Health. The Department’s view was that social behavioural change remained key to the solution and they would integrate HIV/AIDS and key health concerns into development plans.

Mr Hlatshwayo noted that 50 000 social grant beneficiaries would be linked to economic activity and community development, to enable short-term beneficiaries to become self-supporting in the long run. The Department would also prioritise crimes against women and children by focusing on capacity building and training. The goal of the Department was to mainstream gender into research, establish two one-stop centres for victims of crime and violence in two provinces and implement a social crime prevention strategy. Furthermore, the Department would develop human trafficking rehabilitation programmes and begin to register child abuse, neglect and exploitation on the Child Protection Register (CPR).

The Department was instrumental in working with communities to deal with drug peddling and drug abuse. They would develop a five-year programme for substance abuse and implement a campaign on anti-substance abuse with an emphasis on alcohol. They would also work towards the finalisation of the regulations for the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act.

Mr Madonsela emphasised that some of the opportunities for job growth that were presented did not represent permanent jobs; however, there was a significant element of training associated with these jobs and people did not receive a salary during training. Part of the EPWP programme would seek to address this problem.

Mr Coceko Pakade, Acting Chief Executive Officer, SASSA, added that SASSA identified all of its critical vacant posts that needed to be filled, identified the jobs that were permanent by nature, in addition to non-permanent jobs that would assist in reducing internal backlogs.

Mr Zane Dangor, Advisor to the Minister of Social Development, commented that all the other issues that were essential in creating jobs, such as building a socially cohesive society, were important. If they did not address these other issues, the likelihood of people making it into the labour market was small. EPWP was direct job creation, but he made this point to ensure that everyone understood that the other work done by the Department also contributed greatly to enabling people to get into the labour market and get jobs.
           
Discussion
Ms H Lamoela (DA) asked if the Department had a strategy or plan to reduce the substance abuse related mortality and morbidity. She wanted to know when the comprehensive campaign on anti-substance abuse would start and would rural or most affected provinces be first on the list. She also asked if the Department intended to work with alcohol distributors during the campaign. She asked why the Department had planned to open one stop centres for victims of crime in only two provinces and in which two provinces would they be located.

Ms Lamoela turned to the vacancy rate posted by the Department. She asked if the Department had a plan or view on filling vacant posts with disabled persons. She queried if they had a percentage target for disabled persons. Lastly, she questioned the Department's view on the monitoring of SMMEs ability to deliver goods of high standard so that they could be promoted successfully.

Ms N Gcume (COPE) asked what skills development programmes the Department had to assist Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and NGOs.

Ms P Tshwete (ANC) noted that issues addressing health and violence could not be achieved by the Department alone. She asked if DSD was working with the Departments of Education, Police, and Women, Youth and Disabilities on any of these issues. The Department must start creating jobs from within first. She noted that many people had been filling acting roles for a long time and she inquired when the Department would be filling these positions.

Ms T Kenye (ANC) asked for clarity on the Department's strategy to reduce new HIV/AIDS infection levels through social behavioural change. She asked if there was an exit strategy to remove social grant beneficiaries in community development projects. Would they be applying the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) to removing beneficiaries?

Ms M Masilo (ANC) asked if the Department had a plan to reduce the time it tool to hire into vacant posts.

Ms Lamoela asked if the job increases noted in the presentation were sustainable jobs and if the Department could provide a breakdown of jobs by province. If the jobs were not sustainable, she queried the duration of the jobs. She also enquired if these jobs were still filled.

The Chairperson added her voice to the concerns that many strategic posts were still vacant. She asked if the Department's organogram represented a wish list, or whether it represented the actual structure of the organisation based on approved funding. She noted that organograms would have an impact on both service delivery and the ability to achieve strategic goals.

The Chairperson noted that the EPWP learnerships, especially with respect to ECD, were making significant improvements in people's lives and in communities. She asked if these learnerships would continue in the sector. In regards to linking 50 000 beneficiaries to jobs, from what grants would these beneficiaries be coming from.

Ms Lamoela asked how the skills advancement centres would benefit rural students.

Ms Tshwete asked if the implementation of the electronic benefits management system had begun.

Mr Madonsela stated that the vacant posts in SASSA had been advertised, the short list was completed and they were awaiting interview dates.

Mr Dangor said that the substance abuse campaign had already started. The particular focus on alcohol was based on research that demonstrated that although South Africa had a large substance abuse problem, alcohol was the largest contributor to morbidity, mortality and social crime. Although there was a focus on alcohol, the Department was not neglecting the other issues of substance abuse. He noted that an inter-ministerial committee had been created to deal with this issue. Mr Dangor noted that the Department engaged with the alcohol industry, but they would not partner with them.

The Chairperson noted that there was a summit on the 15-17 March to address substance abuse issues.

Mr Madonsela discussed the challenges of campaigning against alcohol, given that it was legal to buy, sell or possess, given certain restrictions. This campaign would require a range of social partners and civil society to be involved in order to be successful.

Mr Eugene Webster, DSD Chief Director:
Human Capital Management (HCM), stated that the Department was compliant with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) target of 2% disabled workers. They were in the process of revising this target disability rate to 4%. He noted that this was not an easy target to achieve. They were in the process of filling all vacant posts, especially those in which someone was holding an acting appointment. The shortlists for all acting appointment positions was finalised and they were in the process of setting up interviews. He noted that, in general, they were able to fill posts within three months; however, strategic posts were attended to with urgency. Mr Webster explained that the Department's organogram only contained funded posts. Thus the vacancy rate presented was a true reflection of the structure of the organisation.

Mr Oupa Ramachela, DSD Chief Director: SPO, reiterated to the Committee that where job creation was concerned, the policy objective of government was to create jobs. Given the imperative of what the Department was dealing with, and in looking across the entire public service, the nature of these jobs were short-term. DSD had initiated Home Community Based Care, Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes within the social sector. The majority of the jobs created under these programmes were still there. These positions were long term simply because the nature of work that they do was long term. Of those graduates from the EPWP programme, provinces had created positions as auxiliary social workers, teachers, and nurses.

Mr Thomas, DSD Deputy Director General recalled that the Committee had earlier recommended that the Department not proceed with its disability assessment and its new definition of disability to avoid the unintended consequences of people with chronic illnesses falling out of the system. The Department would continue to explore options around the application of a harmonised assessment tool that would ensure a uniform assessment of disability. He then turned to the question on the Department's strategy for removing beneficiaries from the system. The work of DSD was geared towards providing income support to people in poverty. There was a need to link income support provision to employment initiatives in the labour market. There were a number of other departments that were looking at job creation initiatives and that DSD's role would then be to provide the income support and link them to the initiatives of other departments.

Mr Coceko Pakade, Acting CEO South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), noted that SASSA was in an advanced stage of filling five of its vacant Regional Manager positions. He also noted that SASSA faced significant challenges with its organisational structure. The structure was currently under review, at to this end, they were looking at two strategies. First, SASSA was looking at the optimal utilisation of staff by matching the skills of people to positions in all nine regions down to the local offices. Second, they reviewed all of the unfunded positions in the organisation that had never been funded. They had identified approximately 7000 posts which would be abolished. He stressed that these posts had never been filled. Mr Pakade stated that long term, SASSA was undertaking a restructuring program that would align their organisation with the mandate.

Turning to fraud management, Mr Pakade stated SASSA has reached an agreement with the National Treasury to implement automated systems. These systems would focus on prevention and deterrence of fraud rather than on corrective measures. He noted that the implementation of these systems would introduce 40 posts for compliance officers in the fraud management office.

Ms Lamoela recalled that DSD implemented an anti-corruption and fraud policy. She asked if the policy was ever implemented and if it brought any changes to fraud and corruption activities in the department. She asked if they were pleased with the outcomes and how successful was the campaign.

Ms Tshwete reiterated her questions about cooperation between departments on the issues of substance abuse.

Mr Pakade stated that the fraud management strategy from the past was a multi-prong approach. SASSA reported previously on the numbers and amounts. An indemnity was offered to people to come forward, where the government saved money from terminating these grants. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) was also engaged to investigate, which resulted in prosecutions. The focus for the future was fraud prevention.

Mr Madonsela spoke to the strategy on human trafficking by stating that DSD was not able to put something together on its own. The project was led by the Department of Justice, but DSD was an important player through the victim reporting programme.

Mr Madonsela qualified the type of grants that constituted the 50 000 grants that would be linked to jobs. He stated that when one looked at the type of grants that were given out, these were generally given to those who could not easily get jobs. People with disabilities who by definition could not enter the labour market, or older persons who may be beyond their best days of active employment. Although there were programs targeted specifically to assist these two groups to conquer any impediments in entering the labour market, Mr Madonsela stated that the target was caregivers of children who were receiving a grant. Specifically, the target was able caregivers who could not enter the labour market because the market did not have the absorptive capacity for them.

Mr Wiseman Magasela, Deputy Director General, Social Policy for DSD, noted that child caregivers were receiving a grant because they were below the threshold. The level of threshold to receive the Child Support Grant was R2500. To link these people to economic activity, these beneficiaries would be required to have employment that earned them more than this amount. He noted that the challenge was reflected in the fact that 45 percent of South Africans had full time jobs that earned them less than this threshold.

Mr Webster stated that the Skills Development Centre was still in the developmental phase. There were accredited service providers in place, including auxiliary social workers and child and youth care workers. Provinces should build targets for these occupations into their human resource plans. The inclusion of rural students was part of these plans, but the details still needed to be worked out.

The Chairperson thanked the Department for their presentation and stated that she looked forward to the SASSA report the following week.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

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