National Development Agency: Community projects progress report, Independent Tribunal for Social Assistance: Progress on backlogs

NCOP Health and Social Services

29 August 2011
Chairperson: Ms R Rasmeni (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was updated by the National Development Agency (NDA) on the progress made in community projects. The NDA process around grant funding was defined as including programming, identification, formulation, appraisal and approval. The two methods for grant making, being Request for Proposals and Programme Formulation were explained to the Committee. The Committee heard that the current challenges were inadequate performance monitoring and evaluation, inadequate skills and competencies of NDA staff, and limited management capacity of funded projects.

Members asked how many jobs the NDA intended creating, in view of the President’s pronouncements on job creation and the eradication of poverty. The process of projects graduating to community enterprises was explained, and the number of such projects was reported. A report on the specific challenges of projects in the Western Cape was requested. The alignment between Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes and the activities of the Department of Education was questioned. Members asked for the NDA’s understanding of rural development and asked if communication links existed with local government structures. The Committee expressed concern about the areas of Kliptown and Alexandra, whose nodal areas had not developed since the last time a report was made to Parliament, and asked why the route of nodal areas was taken. Members asked for clarity about how funding was allocated and for explanations of equitable share funding as an approach by the National Treasury, and the population index as an indicator for funding. A list of project locations would be forwarded to the Committee to assist with oversight. The Committee asked about ECD centres, and if they were being strengthened, and also if the National Qualification Framework level 4 qualification was meant for educators at ECD centres. Members also wanted to know how much money had been allocated to women in the NDA budget, and if programmes existed for teaching financial management to projects.

The Independent Tribunal briefed the Committee on the situation regarding the backlog of appeals. The current year started with a backlog of approximately 19 399 appeals. The backlog was due to be finalised by October 2011. The judgement of Ntamo and others against the Minister of Social Development was explained. The Committee asked whether the Tribunal would be able to meet the deadline for sorting out the backlog. The Committee heard that the South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) was solely responsible for records, as the Tribunal only received applications for appeal. The lack of management information systems and insufficient records on file was questioned and Members called for an explanation as to how this situation would be handled. The backward referral of matters to the Tribunal had to be explained, as the Committee could not see why this was necessary.

Meeting report

National Development Agency (NDA) briefing
Ms Vuyelwa Nhlapo, Chief Executive Officer, National Development Agency, and Mr Reuben Mogano, Executive Director: Development Management, National Development Agency gave a briefing to the Committee on the progress made on projects and programmes.

The thematic focus areas of grant making were outlined. A summarised high level budget was presented, illustrating items for a five year period from 2012 - 2016. The budget per strategic objective for 2011 and 2012 was also presented (see attached presentation).

The NDA process was defined as including programming, identification, formulation, appraisal and approval. The criteria for grant making involved supporting programmes and projects that demonstrated an integrated, holistic, comprehensive and sustainable approach to poverty eradication. This would be based on considerations of effectiveness, impact on poverty, sustainability, replicability, partnership and models of best practice. The two methods of grant making, being the Request for Proposals and Programme Formulation, were explained, including the motivations and preferences for each (see attached presentation).

Ms Nhlapo outlined the current challenges as including lack of adequate skills and competencies of NDA staff to provide effective support to funded projects, inadequate performance monitoring and evaluation of funded projects, and limited management, institutional and technical capacity of funded projects. The intervention plan for each challenge was outlined by way of a schedule.

The Chairperson asked how many jobs the NDA intended creating, particularly in view of the pronouncement by the President on job creation and the eradication of poverty. The Chairperson also asked if the jobs would be temporary or permanent jobs.

The Chairperson asked about projects that had graduated to community enterprises, asking in which provinces such enterprises could be found, and how many projects there were.

The Chairperson asked for a report on the special challenges of projects in the Western Cape. 

The Chairperson asked, with regard to project formulation, which provinces were prioritised for adoption of the new approaches, and when this might have started.

The Chairperson asked if there was alignment between Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes, and an integration of activities with the Department of Education. 

The Chairperson asked why the budget was cut, and how the NDA was going to fund new projects.

Ms M Boroto (Mpumalanga, ANC) asked how the work of the NDA would reach the people and in which areas there would be specific outreach to them. She also asked how the Committee could be assisted to help people reach and deal with the market.

Ms Boroto asked what the NDA’s understanding was of rural development.

Ms Boroto asked if anything had been done to ensure that there was a link and communication between the NDA and local government.

Ms B Mncube (Gauteng, ANC) expressed concern about the area of Kliptown, as it was not developing. There were nodal areas and every project was assigned to a nodal area, but the situation in Alexandra had not improved, even though this was also a nodal area.  She asked why the NDA had gone the route of nodal areas.  

Ms Mncube said that during the presentation it was clearly stated that the NDA responded to well established and emerging projects. She meant if this translated to giving support only to those who were more able to support themselves, or if support was also given to those most in need. If it was the former, then this did not concur with the stated mission of the NDA to alleviate poverty.

Ms Mncube asked for clarity about how the NDA allocated funding, saying that its approach seemed unclear.

Ms Mncube asked what the population index meant and how this was linked to the approach of the National Treasury, which was to provide equitable share funding. She pointed out that last year Gauteng had a population index of 10.5 million, and questioned if this meant that this province had did receive more money.

Ms Mncube asked for evidence as to where exactly projects were located, as this would assist the Committee with its oversight engagements.

Ms Mncube asked for evidence about institutional linkages with expert organisations for the transfer of skills, and for an explanation about the links made with industries.

Ms D Rantho (Eastern Cape, ANC) asked if the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sites and the management of these sites was being strengthened already, or if the NDA was still planning to do so.  

Ms Rantho asked if the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 4 qualification was meant for educators at the ECD sites. She asked further if, after that qualification was attained, the Department of Education was made aware that the salary commensurate with the qualification had to be paid, and if the NDA was going to pay that salary.

Ms Rantho asked if the NDA was going to strengthen the ECD sites by hosting workshops, and what the duration of these workshops would be. She wondered if communication by the NDA with those sites would be effective.

Ms Rantho asked if the projects were effectively addressing the strategic objectives of the organisation.

Ms Rantho asked how much money was allocated to women, through the NDA budgets.

Ms Rantho asked if the NDA had a programme for teaching financial management.

Ms M Makgate (North West, ANC) said that inadequate skills, unsustainable projects, and inadequate monitoring were mentioned as some of the challenges that the organisation had experienced. The Committee appreciated that there was an intervention plan in place and therefore expected a progress report on the challenges. However, she made the point that these challenges were seemingly exactly the same as those presented to the Committee the last time the NDA had reported.

Ms Makgate asked for the reasons why projects were being closed down.

Mr S Plaatjie (North West, COPE) asked if a project-by-project and a province-by-province scan could be provided, so that the Committee could ascertain what was the situation in three areas: namely, the outstanding projects in different provinces, which projects were experiencing problems and which projects needed interventions. This would allow the Committee to understand the progress being made in the different provinces.

Mr Plaatjie asked what the strategy was to mobilise additional financial resources to deal with the challenges.

Mr Plaaitjie asked if the NDA was only dependent on the grants it received, or if it had other methods of obtaining funds.

Mr M De Villiers (Western Cape, ANC) said that in the presentation mention had been made of the influence on policy through departments. He asked which policy, and which departments, were referred to.

Mr De Villiers asked if the NDA was actually supporting practitioners in training so that they could go to the next level, or whether there might be other methods that supported them.

Mr De Villiers asked if, with regard to funding of informal settlements, especially in urban cities, the NDA was providing support to projects. If so, then he asked in which cities that support was being provided.

Mr De Villiers asked for information on which projects were carrying on without the assistance of the NDA.

Mr De Villiers asked for the timeframes allocated to the nine nodal areas, so that they could be excluded to allow benefits for other nodal areas.  

Mr De Villiers asked for the names of the projects referred to on slide 20.

Mr De Villiers asked which areas were referred to on slide 23, which commented about inadequate skills and competencies of NDA staff. 

Mr De Villiers asked from which part of the community, and for which NDA funded projects, a network of professional volunteers for the provision of specialist support would be established, as referred to in slide 25 of the presentation.

Mr De Villiers asked if support was provided for projects that had shortcomings, and if all projects had mid-term and end of term evaluations and assessments.

Mr T Mashamaite (Limpopo, ANC) asked what motivations were used for the release of funds to projects, and whether this was based upon business plans or the area of work.

Ms Vuyelwa Nhlapo responded in general to groups of questions. In respect of the nodal areas, she noted that these were targeted specifically with reference to the vision and mission of the NDA, which focussed specifically on civil society, with a mandate to address poverty and poor communities. The work was guided by government policies and strategies. An Anti-Poverty Strategy had been developed for the country, which outlined areas critical for addressing poverty. The NDA addressed poverty through the Anti-Poverty Strategy.

A comprehensive rural strategy had been developed, which also outlined the pillars that had to be addressed when dealing with rural development. One of the challenges in rural areas was that of children being able to access ECD education. The availability of ECD practitioners was critical to the realisation of access to ECD education. The NQF levels had been agreed upon, and the Department of Social Development (DSD) had to develop the norms and standards for ECD education. The NDA was assisting the rural areas in this way. Where it took longer for the Department of Education to train practitioners, the NDA would step in to assist and accelerate the process, by ensuring that accredited trainers could assist practitioners by providing training linked to the curriculum.

She noted that ECD centres were run by civil society organisations, but admitted that there were many challenges in the management of ECD centres. The role of the NDA was to strengthen the institutional capacity of civil society organisations who were managing the sites. The NDA worked closely with a network of ECD organisations whose role was to strengthen the capacity of ECD centres.

She also noted that health had a specific role in ECD, and it was necessary to adopt an integrated approach.

In respect of the training, Ms Nhlapo explained that the precise duration of workshops depended on the capacity that was being built, and cited as an example the financial capacity of a particular programme. However, if there was training on NQF-related matters, then there would be definite time frames in place.

In regard to the questions on budget and budget cuts, Ms Nhlapo explained that these were tied to the fact that a number of departmental budgets had been cut during the economic crisis, and this also included the budget of the NDA. Fortunately, the amount that was cut was subsequently given back. Unfortunately the R151 million allocated to the NDA did not address all the concerns related to poverty, hence it was important for the organisation to prioritise.

Ms Nhlapo said that it should be acknowledged that progress had been made in addressing the challenges. These challenges would, to some degree, always persist because there was always the problem of limited resources. Part of the strategy included a target that NDA should raise R1 billion over a period of five years, in addition to what was received from the government. This involved raising R200 million per year, and agreements had already been signed with organisations who were prepared to fund the NDA. There were also always capacity challenges, which were related to funding of civil society organisations. However, the NDA, through ensuring that there were good skills, and that the work was monitored, had managed to achieve some good results. She stressed that monitoring was very important to the NDA, and had improved its outputs.

The network of professional volunteers to provide specialist support to NDA funded projects, was part of an intervention plan to build partnerships. It was important that the support provided to organisations was not only sourced from the NDA. Where such experts could be sourced, and how networks could be built, varied, depending on the type of project. She confirmed that the list of projects would, as requested, be sent through to the Committee.

With regard to the policies and departments influenced, Ms Nhlapo said that the NDA dealt with projects related to the alleviation of poverty. A vast amount of experience was gained from the projects funded in communities. The organisation had a unit that dealt with research issues and the evaluation of the impact of projects.  The information received reflected best practices and included how to influence policies that addressed issues of poverty. This was reflected in the engagements with the Department of Social Development, where inputs were made regarding ECD centres and the policies around this.

Ms Nhlapo also confirmed that the NDA had built capacity in a number of areas, depending on the need of particular projects.

Ms Nhlapo said that the budget did not specifically break down how much was allocated and spent specifically on women’s issues, but she said that it would be safe to say that over 80% was allocated to, or affected women, through the projects.

Mr Mogano confirmed that the Committee would be provided with a report regarding the oversight in the Western Cape.

He noted that the NDA had started training practitioners. Information packs had been provided to all Members illustrating the contacts and list of everything the NDA was willing to provide. 

He explained the possible models for accessing funds, and repeated that there were two approaches - Requests for Proposals and Programme Formulation. The Programme Formulation component was intended for localities where there were relatively few civil society organisations (CSOs), or where communities were weak and assistance was needed to package proposals that required funding. This was the first part. The second part was the Request For Proposals (RFPs), which involved inviting people to apply for funding on a competitive basis. This favoured the better established organisations. He then explained that during the past financial year, 90% of the funding was accessed through Programme Formulation, and 10% was through RFPs. Programme Formulation was the favoured approach.

Mr Mogano then answered the question about community enterprises that had graduated from being projects, saying that Newport was a community enterprise that had lasted for one year, having started operating in February this year. In three months it was able to generate over R1 million rand, with a net profit of R352 000. In Limpopo, Sasikisane, a poultry project, was able to generate over R150 000 per month. The idea was that the NDA entered at a start-up level, where other structures were unable to enter, and when those organisations started to take off, then the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the NDF would take over.

He reported that 70 projects were in the process of closing down. These projects were not ceasing to exist as such, and he reminded Members that some projects were approved for 12 to 36 months. When this time period expired, the projects could not just be left in limbo but had to be properly closed off, because they were linked to contractual periods. At this stage the NDA involvement would come to an end, and the allocated amounts of money would be paid over.

There were no specific figures available regarding job creation. Baseline figures were available in the Strategic Plan, which would be made available to the Committee. Last year, 2 700 jobs were created and the NDA was in the process of collating all the data.

Ms Nhlapo answered queries around the inadequate skills, by noting that the NDA supported projects and had Development Managers in place, whose role was to facilitate support, and monitor the implementation of projects in communities. NDA’s previous experiences had shown that in the past, projects had collapsed because the NDA was not as effective as it might be, as an organisation, in monitoring and supporting these projects. Training was provided to the NDA’s Development Managers so that they were able to support the implementation of programmes and were able to monitor their implementation. NDA had strengthened the internal skills of those organisations, particularly in regard to the support they provided in the implementation of projects.

Ms Rantho suggested that the NDA should investigate the area of subsistence farming, saying that farming was not always to be regarded as a commercial enterprise

Independent Tribunal for Social Assistance Appeals briefing
Mr John Mokwele, Director: Appeals Unit, Independent Tribunal for Social Assistance Appeals, Department of Social Development, provided the background to the current situation regarding the backlog of appeals. The current year started with a backlog of approximately 19 399 appeals. This backlog was due to be finalised by October 2011.The judgment of Ntamo and others against the Minister of Social Development was explained. According to the out-of-court settlement, the backlog appeals had to be finalised by October 2011. The quarterly backlog performance targets for 2011/2012 were presented. The case assessment and validation process provided an indication of problems that included the lack of identity documents, means test, duplicate matters, enquiries and general complaints, and real backlog appeals.

Ms Mncube asked for more clarity about the remaining backlog of appeals, and if there was certainty about meeting the deadline for sorting out the backlog.

Mr Mokwele said that the appeals board was on track. The problem with identities had been dealt with, because systems had been put in place, and the process was improved. He was sure that the backlog would be cleared by the end of September 2011.

Ms Makgate said there were challenges regarding inadequate and insufficient records on file, and the lack of management information systems. She asked how the Independent Tribunal (the Tribunal) intended to deal with this situation.

Mr Mokwele replied that the Tribunal was solely dependent on the South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) for records, because it only received applications for appeal, and all records were held by SASSA.

Mr Plaatjie asked why appellants were referred back to SASSA when complaints were lodged directly with the Appeal Board.  

Mr Mokwele replied that the only instances where matters were referred back to SASSA were matters that were dealt with under the Act, and would, for example, cover cases where the matter was not ripe for appeal because reconsideration was still required, or where there were beneficiaries who were not able to appeal to the Tribunal. SASSA would then have to deal with those matters. The Tribunal did not refer appellants to SASSA for information, it communicated with SASSA regarding the records of appellants.

The meeting was adjourned.


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