The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) on the Strategic Plan for 2011/12 to 2013/14. Key projects for improved service delivery were highlighted. These included standardised and coordinated services by multi-skilled staff and injection of funding at local level. Current challenges were that the system had remained largely manual and lacked integration; the Agency had a 60% vacancy rate; inadequate local office accommodation and delivery of social service at local level.
The number of benefits receivable from the social assistance programme had grown significantly and the number of beneficiaries had increased from 10 million in 2006 to over 15 million in 2010/11. This growth had impacted on the workload of staff.
SASSA had implemented the Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programmes (ICROP) to ensure that services were extended to beneficiaries; to reduce overcrowding and to improve customer relations at local offices and pay points.
Automation of systems and the introduction of biometric enrollment through the Improved Grant Application System (IGAP) would enable checking of biometrical data with that at SARS, Home Affairs and other agencies. The aim was for SASSA to automate end-to-end solutions on one platform.
SASSA aimed to perform electronic payments itself at the end of the five year tender – this tender was still to be finalized and would become effective in March 2012. SASSA would own the biometric data bank and perform quality checks using the information.
SASSA had taken action to remedy missing critical documentation and had contracted with SIU to assist with fraud and improving quality of data management.
Currently SASSA outsourced a great deal of its business products but aimed to increase insourcing to reduce costs. SASSA had worked hard to deal with the qualified audit of the previous year and with improved filing, finance and governance within the agency, aimed to achieve a clean audit in 2011/12.
Members asked when the payment tender would be finalised; what the plan was for the new payment system; how jobs would be created; how the vacancy rate would be reduced; how additional employees would be financed; and if SASSA planned to re-structure staffing to alleviate the amount of outsourcing work.
Members also asked what progress had been made on the plan to increase the number of local offices; how 159 000 files went missing; why provincial offices had no financial reports on their payments to beneficiaries; and how SASSA planned to alleviate the problem in small towns where doctors were required.
Lastly, they asked what plans were in place for SASSA to achieve a clean audit.
Mr Vusi Madonsela, Director General: Department of Social Development said that the Department had oversight on SASSA’s Strategic Plan for 2011/12 to 2013/14 and would assist with answering questions where necessary.
Ms Virginia Petersen, Chief Executive Officer: South African Social Security Agency noted SASSA was a schedule 3A public entity company established in 2006 to transform social security in SA. Since its establishment there had been a steady increase in the demand for services. The number of benefits receivable from the social assistance programme had grown significantly and the number of beneficiaries had increased from 10 million in 2006 to over 15 million in 2010/11. This growth had impacted on the workload of staff. SASSA’s Reform Agenda would address customer care; administration and management; organisational capacity; and access to social security services.
The social assistance system had remained largely manual and lacked integration. Another challenge was that the agency had a 60% vacancy rate (SASSA was currently undertaking applications) and lack of suitable office accommodation at local level.
Service delivery improvements would involve injecting funding into standardization and coordination of services across provinces and training and enhancing opportunities for existing staff. Currently there were predominantly Level 5 and 7 workers. Level 5 staff were indeed an anchor but had historically not been further skilled. SASSA would be investing in the 7500 staff and look at offering level 5 and contract employees the opportunity to become permanent staff. Progress in this regard would be reported back to the Select Committee.
It was a corporate social responsibility of SASSA to improve conditions at service points to ensure a more customer-focused organization. Basics such as seating, water and toilets were essential. The Deputy Minister had visited communities and was in agreement that investment in service delivery at local level would indeed improve conditions at service points.
SASSA had implemented the Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programmes (ICROP) to ensure that services were extended to beneficiaries; to reduce overcrowding and to improve customer relations at local offices and pay points, particularly for the rural population. It would need to be more scientifically managed with projected targets being met in specific areas. Visits would be a single entry and exit where affidavits would be obtained on-site. This process was still to be regularized with Home Affairs. SASSA staff, rather than security, would greet and direct beneficiaries arriving at SASSA’s local offices. The high level of illiteracy meant that informative media had to be pitched accurately and in the relevant language.
The Improved Grant Application System (IGAP) would improve application, payment and beneficiary maintenance. Automation of Grant Management and Administration, which involved introduction of biometric enrollment through IGAP, would enable checking of biometrical data with that at SARS, Home Affairs and other agencies. IGAP would need to be enhanced as currently it was not able to read software and therefore could not immediately recognize ID documents and it would also be renamed to include more functions. The aim was to roll out the fully functioning model office in Escort with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) trained staff to all provinces before the end of the financial year. The ultimate aim was for SASSA to automate end-to-end solutions on one platform and implement an ICT business system.
Currently three service providers – Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), Empilweni and All Pay - paid out SASSA’s grants. This payment tender for the following five years had closed on 27 June 2011 and three months thereafter it was expected that a Bid Adjudicating Committee would finalize who the successful tender/s would be. All beneficiaries would be re-enrolled and SASSA would own the biometric data bank and perform quality checks using the information. The automated system would reduce time and risk; gain efficiency with applications for grants and through the chain of automated data processes, reduce fraud. SASSA aimed to re-engineer and simplify the application form and in five years, perform electronic payments itself, with banks being only one type of payment solution. Other automated and electronic options would be available to pay beneficiaries in the rural areas.
The ‘missing files syndrome’ had been an issue with the Auditor-General. Warehouses with box-loads of bulky files, high costs of space and outsourcing would be phased out. Electronic data sites would reduce cost and be more environment-friendly. A new business re-engineering product was required to deal with the 20 million active documents.
Clinics in poor areas had access to both the Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme and Social relief of distress (SRD) so that children benefited optimally from support from government. SASSA wanted to encourage mothers to use ECD sites. The Minster had ensured through court that eligible children receive foster care grants. There was a move to provincialise SRD but currently the role of entities involved was unclear. Progress in this regard would be shared with the Select Committee.
The 2011/12 - 2013/14 MTEF plan for SASSA was outlined (see handout). The 2011/12 budget of R6 billion for SASSA’s operational costs was for administering the R90 billion social grants paid to beneficiaries. Cash handling fees would depend on the payment to the new tender/s. Currently SASSA outsourced a great deal of its business products but aimed to increase insourcing to reduce costs. SASSA had worked hard to deal with the qualified audit of the previous year and with improved filing, finance and governance within the Agency aimed to achieve a clean audit in 2011/12. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had been re-contracted to assist with reducing fraud and improving quality of data management.
Better understanding of the accrual system by staff, of which Oracle was the platform, would enable improvement in financial performance on all levels at SASSA. The financial performance in 2009/10 was poor but SASSA was on the road to financial health. This would become evident. SASSA had appealed to Treasury that surplus in the past financial year be transferred to reduce SASSA’s overdraft.
Ms B Mncube (ANC,
Ms Petersen replied that the time period of the contract with the payment tender/s was 5 years. The current service providers’ term would end in September but this would be extended to the end of March due to the process of the award and enrollment target being 5 years from the end of March. A piloted payment model by the service provider/s would be the first phase and SASSA would ensure that the design mapped end to end solutions, with SASSA ownership of the biometric data of each individual on the system being a priority. More specific plans for operation could be shared once an optimal model was finalized.
Ms Mncube asked how the 60% vacancy rate would be reduced. Contracting and outsourcing did not build capacity, nor share skills or create jobs.
Mr W Farber (DA,
Ms Petersen replied that in 2006 when SASSA was established, it took over an initial base of 6000 staff in the provinces and this number had grown to 7500. SASSA’s priority was to appoint level 7 staff and invest at local level to enhance efficiency and service delivery. SASSA currently had a total staff establishment of 18 000. SARS, Capitec and Home Affairs were benchmark establishments for SASSA’s 18 000 staff and there was evidence for more jobs in customer care. SASSA did not aspire to load the staff base but to introduce aggregation of jobs to reduce repetition and enhance efficiency. There were also too many managers at head office who would better serve at local level. However, finance skills with the accrual system as demanded by Treasury were critical and Ernst & Young had been contracted to SASSA to ensure skills transfer. With end to end solutions and towards SASSA becoming the paymasters, where there were vacancies it would be necessary to employ more specific staff, but these staff issues would be addressed closer to the time. SASSA would approach Treasury with a business case in this regard. In line with the strategic plan, SASSA would re-engineer the finance, risk and IT environment to ensure skills in those areas. Thus, vacancies would be reduced but not to a great extent in the immediate future. The CFO had been suspended due to mismanagement and this important position would be advertised shortly to bring stability to SASSA.
Mr M De Villiers (DA,
Ms Petersen replied that the 20 worst local offices were being attended to in the current financial year. A list of the offices would be forwarded to the Select Committee.
Mr De Villiers asked what the plan was to achieve a clean audit.
Ms Petersen replied that there would be re-design of the finance division which would include a newly appointed CFO.
Mr Farber asked how 159 000 files went missing.
Ms Petersen said that while there were vacancies, SASSA did not have recognized staff working in the warehouses protecting the files. The ‘missing file project’ was being fast-tracked and the auditor had expressed appreciation at SASSA’s dedication towards locating living beneficiaries whose files were missing.
Mr Bandile Maqetuka, SASSA Finance Manager: Grants Administration, added that in the 2010/11 financial year, the situation was markedly improved. Of a sample of 2 362 files, only 16 files were not found for audit purposes.
Mr Farber asked how SASSA would improve the situation witnessed on an oversight visit to the
Ms Petersen said that provinces would become cost managers and would be accountable for their budget. Head office would not be the only responsible body.
Ms Mncube asked which municipalities had been targeted by ICROP outreach, how much funding was required in these under-funded areas and whether urban poor people were equally targeted.
Ms D Rhanto (ANC,
Mr Maqetuka replied that the municipalities targeted were in
Ms Petersen added that there were problems with conditions at rural and urban offices and challenges were being addressed.
Mr De Villiers asked how many of the15 million South Africans targeted for benefits were awaiting the benefit of grants and what the plan and time frame was for improving the total number of beneficiaries receiving grants.
Ms Petersen said that progress was being made with the targeted 15 million potential beneficiaries. The issue was not reaching the target itself but where they were on the map and whether there were potential beneficiaries who fell through the gap in the system.
Mr De Villiers asked what plan was in place to accommodate overtime of work for staff.
Ms Peterson replied that there were two teams to address overtime: a flexitime team for what was called ‘stretching the day’ and a team for rapid deployment in emergencies.
Mr De Villiers asked how the relationship between IGAP and SOCPEN (Social Pension Fund Grant System) could be improved to address solutions to disasters, especially in rural areas where people lost their ID documents and their children’s birth certificates, as this ultimately affected SASSA.
Ms Petersen replied that SASSA would be requesting that an IT specialist provide SASSA with an interface of scanning and biometric data between IGAP and SOCPEN before further investment was made. There had already been discussion about software between SASSA’s ICT executives and State Information Technology Agency (SITA) in this regard.
Mr De Villiers asked if a progress report could be shared with the Select Committee with regard to the development between IGAP and SOCPEN.
Mr Luvuyo Keyise, Information Officer, SASSA clarified that through SITA, SASSA would implement a system similar to that of the Home Affairs’ smartcard. It would control for biometric data when a potential beneficiary applied for a grant.
Ms Petersen added that verification of data at intake reduced the risk thereafter and the aim was to restore trust and integrity to the system.
Mr Farber asked what plan was in place to recover the R150 million from dormant accounts by 2013/14.
Ms Petersen said that until recently only certain organizations could access banks accounts. Indeed there was money in accounts which was lying dormant which should have been returned to government. The Minister had recently signed indemnity for SASSA to have access to those accounts
Mr Farber said that there had recently been confusion in the
Mr Madonsela replied that the farmers who had suffered setbacks did not qualify for social relief of distress benefits. SRD was for humanitarian support for individuals. Farmers whose farms were harmed received relief support from other forms of government intervention.
Ms Mncube suggested that mobile stations, where mothers were applying for birth certificates, should also include information, advice, ECD and ICROP grant applications.
Ms Petersen replied that this option would be explored.
Mr De Villiers asked how SASSA planned to alleviate the problem in small towns such as in Leeu Gampka,.where doctors were unable to cope with the number of patients requiring their services.
Dr W Terblanche, Relief Management: SASSA, replied that SASSA had an agreement with the Department of Health that they would provide medical doctors to perform assessments on patients for beneficiary grants. There was currently a problem in Beaufort West and a meeting with Dr Marshall on Thursday would address challenges of delivery within the District of Health in Beaufort West and the surrounding area.
The Chairperson thanked SASSA for their presentation and the Director-General for the support by the DSD. She encouraged SASSA to assist with the elderly at clinics and with people with disabilities who had to return to offices to reapply for grants; and reinforced the need for upgrading of conditions at the pay points. Also, the problem with missing files could not persist - in the modern age files could be scanned and digitized.
Ms Petersen agreed with the Chairperson’s proposal and added that beneficiaries typically approached State hospitals rather than private hospitals. It was SASSA’s intent to collate data with the Department of Health to reduce ‘doctor-waiting time’ for the patient and SASSA’s cost of buying in doctors especially in rural areas.
The Chairperson thanked Members and the delegation for their presence and input at the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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