Meeting SummaryA delegation from the Department of Social Development (DSD), together with the Minister of Social Development, briefed the Committee on the DSD Annual Report. The five programmes were briefly outlined. The focus areas were outlined as social assistance, to reduce income poverty, through the Child Support Grant, which now covered children to the age of 16 or 17 years, and the Older Person’s Grant, now extended to all men over the age of 60. The DSD had also introduced a draft Social Assistance Amendment Bill to Parliament, but part of the Bill had been referred back to Cabinet for reconsideration. The second focus area was on social insurance, where a policy on mandatory retirement provisions approved by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Social Security. Draft blueprints for a revised social security institutional framework and a National Social Security Fund were also completed. The third focus was on the Appeals Tribunal, which had finalised 41 162 appeals from the backlog and had finalised 4 015 new appeals. Social welfare services were being supported, and 5 574 scholarships to study social work were awarded. Pilot projects had been run in KwaZulu Natal to improve care offered to communities. The policy for people with disabilities was finalised. Emphasis was also placed on human rights. In the area of social welfare for children, it was noted that the Child Protection Register had been implemented, and the other activities of the DSD in relation to the Children’s Act were set out. The DSD was also focusing on reducing substance abuse, and thereby also addressing social crime. Gender-based violence programmes were held. Several programmes were set up and run to assist the youth. Three Acts had been put in force and were being implemented. The DSD had spent 98,01% of its budget, and it was explained that there had been less beneficiaries for the social grants than expected, whilst there was also underspending on capital assets in respect of invoices not paid in the financial year. The DSD had once again received a qualified audit, due to the lack of complete data relating to social assistance beneficiaries provided by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). Plans were being implemented to improve on performance in this area.
Members asked for further reports on the SASSA interventions and wondered if this matter, which led to the DSD being qualified for what were essentially faults at SASSA administration, did not need to be corrected by legislation, and several comments were made about the oversight by the DSD and its functions in relation to SASSA and payment to third parties. Members were concerned about several aspects of payment of the social grants, including the application process, the fact that many people needed assistance to complete the forms, long queues, the possibility of older people being harassed by loan sharks, reports some people’s grants were held over for a full month if they did not arrive on the due date to collect them, and the need to pay through banks and financial institutions. Members also highlighted reports about poor relationships between DSD officials and Councillors, noted that in some instances the attitude of officials left much to be desired, sought clarity on the number of scholarships and the conditions attached and asked why the community based care services had been assessed in four provinces only, also asking questions about programmes in Northern Cape. The challenges in implementing the Children’s Act were questioned, and the Members asked what exit strategies were in place, and how people were helped to a situation where they were no longer reliant on social grants. Members also questioned the food banks and how they operated, asked why the scheme to provide children with school uniforms was not linked to projects where the community made the uniforms. Members were concerned about a statement by one MEC that SASSA was still needing assistance, asked also how the DSD monitored compliance with health and safety at old age homes or children’s shelters, asked for a list of social workers, noted that persons over the age of 75 were now receiving home visits, and noted that the DSD was considering implementing a Council whose decisions would be binding. They also questioned the Early Childhood Development programmes and linkages between the Department of Basic Education and DSD.
Department of Social Development Annual Report 2010/11
Ms Bathabile Dlamini, Minister of Social Development, stated that the Department of Social Development (DSD) had used the last 15 years of democracy to focus on policy formulation. The Department was now starting its implementation period, while strengthening monitoring and evaluation. The Department also intended to streamline its work according to government outcomes.
Mr Christopher Mulaudzi, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, Department of Social Development began the presentation by stating that as he had limited time he would not go into any detail on the Department’s vision and mission, or the strategic priorities of the Department. He outlined that the DSD work was done under the five programmes of Administration, Comprehensive Social Security, Policy Development, Review and Implementation Support for Welfare Services, Community Development
Strategy and Governance
He noted that the first focus area was on social assistance, to reduce income poverty, and this was done through the Child Support Grant and the Older Person’s grant. The Department extended the Child Support Grant to children up to the age of 16 to 17, and the Older Person’s grant to men over the age of 60. This was the final phase of age equalisation between men and women in the distribution of grants. The Department also introduced a draft Social Assistance Amendment Bill to Parliament, but part of the Bill had been referred back to Cabinet for reconsideration.
The second focus was on social insurance with a policy on mandatory retirement provisions approved by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Social Security. Draft blueprints for a revised social security institutional framework and a National Social Security Fund were also completed.
The third focus was on the Appeals Tribunal which adjudicated social assistance appeals. In the past year, the Tribunal had finalised 41 162 appeals from the backlog and had finalised 4 015 new appeals.
The third programme focused on social welfare services. The Department awarded scholarships to 5 574 students to study social work in order to support and strengthen family and community interventions that fostered social cohesion. The Department analysed the care offered by communities for older people in the
The Report also focused on the provision of social welfare to children, with the implementation of the Child Protection Register according to the Children’s Act. As the Act came into force in April 2010, the Department had facilitated implementation of the Act, as well as finalising norms and standards and extending the capacity of staff members to implement that Act. The Department had completed a report on findings and guidelines for the scaling up of child abuse prevention and early programmes. The first phase of the study on child abuse, exploitation and neglect was completed. The
The Department had focused on reducing substance abuse by holding a successful 2nd Biannual Anti-Substance Abuse Summit, conducting door-to-door campaigns, and promoting anti-drugs and anti-alcohol initiatives in
During 2010/11, the Department was instrumental in the passing of three new Acts into legislation, which were the Social Assistance Amendment Act, Regulations under the Children’s Act, and Regulations under the Older Person’s Act. The Department was now** implementing these legislations. The Department also actively promoted
Mr Stephanus Esterhuizen, Director: Finance, DSD, reported that the Department had spent 98,01% of its budget. The saving of R1, 8 million under Programme 2 arose because there were less beneficiaries for the social grants than expected. The under-spending on payments for capital assets referred to the delays in paying for the Minister’s vehicles, whilst other savings across the board were efficiency savings, or lack of spending arising from delays in finalising some projects before year end. There was also an under-spending on capital assets under Programme 3 , because some IT equipment was ordered but had not yet arrived. Some payments were also not made to other organisations due to their non-compliance.
Mr Johnny Modibya, Acting Chief Financial Officer, DSD, stated that the Department received a qualified audit due to the lack of complete data relating to social assistance beneficiaries. This was the second year in a row that the Department received a qualified audit on the same issue. This arose because of the dual accountability between the Department and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) over social assistance grants. SASSA thus had a negative impact on the Department’s audit. From 2010/11, SASSA had implemented a three year plan to deal with this issue, and, in one years, had succeeded in reducing the amount that was misstated by over 90% from R10,5 billion to R891 million.
The Chairperson noted that in a previous meeting the Director-General had gone into detail on the interventions that had been put in place to deal with the SASSA situation. She asked for a further report on this issue.
The Chairperson informed the Minister of a visit the Committee had made to Greytown in September-, when the Committee had made observations that in some areas, especially the informal settlements they visited, the situation was dire. One of the main challenges identified was the poor relationship between officials from the Department of Social Development and the Councillors. The latter tried to assist the communities by reporting to the service point but there was no positive response from the SASSA. The Committee also observed that the areas were overpopulated, there was a lot of rubbish left lying around, and most of the youth and women were not working. Many of the children were not catered for with grants. The Committee also found that there were few projects or community development programmes running in the areas. She asked that the Minister follow up on these issues.
The Minister replied that the Department would look into the issues in Greytown. She asked for a report from the Committee on exactly what issues the committee had discovered on its visit to assist follow-up.
Mr M de Villiers (DA), referring to the table of statistics on estimated beneficiaries and actual output on page 14 of the presentation, asked how many applicants who had filled in forms were still waiting on the Department to find out whether they did or did not qualify for a grant.
Mr Selwyn Jerome, Deputy Director-General: Social Security, DSD replied that the Annual Report only reported on the number of beneficiaries actually receiving the grant, and not the number who have applied for grants.
Mr de Villiers asked if the number of students who were awarded scholarships for social work, which was quoted as 5 574, include those in all the years of study.
Dr Maria Mabetoa, Deputy Director-General: Welfare Services, DSD, replied that this number included students at all levels. These students, after graduation, were contracted to work with the Department for two years.
Mr de Villiers commented that there had only been a situational analysis of community-based care services in four provinces and asked about the situation in the others. Similarly, the audit of partial care and ECD (Early Childhood Development) programmes had also only occurred in four provinces and he asked about the remainder.
Dr Mabetoa replied that the initial study was held in the four provinces. The audit had now been expanded to the other provinces.
Mr de Villiers commented that last year there had also been some provinces without food banks, yet this year the same provinces still did not have them, and he called for an update.
Mr de Villiers asked what challenges the different provinces had faced in implementing the Children’s Act.
Dr Mabetoa replied that the Children’s Act had new provisions and new requirements for resources, particularly human resources. The Act also requires the Department to fund fully several services. The provinces were slowly adjusting. The budgets for the provinces were increased two-fold in order to comply with these provisions but this was still not sufficient.
Mr W Faber (DA) was concerned that very few of the programmes seemed to be taking place in the Northern Cape, and asked what budget, and what percentage this represented, was given to the Northern Cape social services, as well as asking if the allocation was fair.
Mr Vusi Madonsela, Director-General, DSD, replied that the
Dr Mabetoa replied that as the
Ms M Makgate (ANC) asked about the under-spending on Programme 2: Comprehensive Social Security. According to the report, this was due to low intake, but she enquired as to the reasons or challenges that led to the low intake.
Mr Jerome relied that there were a number of factors at play. Prior to 1995 and SASSA’s establishment, the provincial departments had come under strain and had thus stopped taking applications. SASSA had prevented this occurring again. The budgeting process was more rigorous and the budget was made on the safe-side, for the means test had been raised significantly. He conceded, however, that SASSA should have communicated these changes better. When dealing with fraud, SASSA ran data comparisons, while reviews were institutionalised and individuals were constantly reminded to update their personal information.
Ms Makgate asked what exit strategy was in place to avoid the issue of dependency on grants. For example, she wanted to know what would happen to a person receiving the temporary disability grant when the individual was certified fit by a doctor. She also asked what measures were being taken to ensure that people would not be dependent on a state grant.
The Minister replied that the Department was looking into programmes to assist people to get out of poverty and out of dependency on grants.
Mr Jerome added that the Committee should bear in mind that the grants were paid to elderly people who were not going to re-join the workforce, those with disabilities and children in poor households. It was not correct to assume that they created more dependency, as poor people were often dependent on others. The taxpayer paid the bill, so it amounted to all of society assisting in sharing the wealth. The Department could also not assist people to halt their dependency when they would not normally re-join the workforce.
Ms Makgate explained that she had heard, in her own province of North West, that a household would be entitled to R15 000 per annum under household intervention, but said the appliances that were bought with this grant cost less.
The Minister replied that she had not heard of a situation where furniture was bought. The Social Relief of Distress grant was equal to the amount of the older person’s grant. If there was an intervention, individuals would usually receive money with restrictions on how they could spend it and this would be monitored.
Ms Makgate asked what a food bank was and how the DSD ensured that communities become part of this
An Acting Deputy Director General from the Department of Social Development explained that a food bank was where food donated by big retailers was kept in one place, to distribute to needy families. The Department was currently reviewing its strategy, with the intention also to include small subsistence farmers. This also complied with the Zero Hunger strategy from the Department of Health. Currently, no more progress had been made on this, as the Department was working on a strategy.
Ms Makgate commented that when needy schoolchildren had their school uniforms bought by the state, these were bought from well-established companies. She asked why the provinces were not creating programmes for communities, to make the uniforms, which could be stockpiled in warehouses. This could assist with job creation.
The Minister replied that this project would be possible and could happen. She stated that it was important to use the services from local communities and empower people.
Mr S Plaatjie (COPE) asked for clarity on the impact of the provincial and entities’ accountability on the social development financial statement. If there was any impact, then he asked how the DSD intended to overcome the problem.
The Director-General replied that provincial departments were in a separate sphere with their own accounting officers. Provinces took full accountability for their finances. A Schedule 3A entity, such as the National Development Agency, also functioned under this framework. However, in the case of SASSA, there were two budgets one was the administrative budget, and one was the grant funding, appropriated by SASSA, and to be administered by it. However, the funds that SASSA administered remained on the Department’s books (transfers to households). SASSA collated data on how many beneficiaries there were, and what was payable to them, but the money was transferred by the Department to third party contractors who paid the beneficiaries. If SASSA, in its administration of funds, did not keep accurate records, this would impact not on SASSA’s own books, but the books of the DSD. In 2010/11, the Department received a qualified audit although SASSA received an unqualified audit. The solution to this issue was to change the flow of funds. Other than these grants, the Department’s books were in good shape.
Mr Plaatjie noted that in response to questions asked during Provincial Week, the MEC had referred to SASSA as “our baby….who was still crawling”. If an entity tasked to be at the service of the people could be compared to a small child then he did not understand how the Department was going to achieve what it intended to achieve.
The Minister replied that she was unsure what was meant by this statement, but she would give an opportunity for the CEO of SASSA to discuss improvements being made.
Mr Plaatjie asked, in relation to the summary of the audit report, what was meant by the Auditor General’s statement that “the amount involved was still above the materiality level as determined by the Auditor-General”.
Mr Madonsela replied that the materiality figures referred to a percentage of the total population of beneficiaries. In the year under review, the figure was about R600 million. SASSA ensured that the figures remained slightly above the materiality level.
Ms B Mncube (ANC) was concerned that old age homes were known to have burnt down in
Dr Mabetoa replied that old age homes must be registered and must comply with norms and standards. The Department did carry out conditional assessments of the structures.
Ms Mncube commented that on the Committee’s oversight visit in the previous week, many people with disabilities had complained that they were not being given assistance at the Department’s offices. She stated that this could arise from a personality clash or poor attitudes, but she stated that there should be a programme to deal with the attitude of the workers to encourage them to treat everyone with dignity.
The Minister conceded that “the attitude of officials leaves much to be desired”.
Ms Mncube added that on this visit, the Committee was also informed that individuals had applied for grants under the Social Assistance Act, but after two years had still not received any benefits. She also stated that there was no clarity on the criteria and how individuals could quality for grants. This was an area where employees of the Department should help people to fill in the application correctly.
The Minister responded that the Department was trying to reduce the amount of paperwork needed for applying for a grant. The grant application form had already been shortened from 20 pages to 6 pages. It was hoped that it could be refined still further.
Ms Mncube referred to the Auditor-General’s report on the dual accountability relationship between the Department and SASSA, and asked if it was intended to amend the legislation, so that the Department could play a clear oversight role over SASSA.
Mr Madonsela replied that the Auditor-General occasionally used language which was sometimes less than helpful. In this case, there was in fact no “dual accountability“, and in fact the lack of accountability meant that SASSA faced no consequences for this. The Department already had oversight over SASSA; but the Department exercised this in respect of performance, not operations. The operations remained the responsibility of the SASSA executive. The Auditor-General disagreed, and had stated that there was a lack of leadership at DSD because there was no oversight of SASSA operations.
Ms N Madadla (ANC) commended the Department on training more social workers; but wanted the list of areas where these new workers were deployed to be sent to the Committee. This would assist the Committee to see which areas needed more social workers.
Dr Mabetoa replied that a list would be provided.
Ms Madadla also commended the Department on capacity building courses for its staff, which showed that there was a proper need analysis done . However, she stated that the Department must monitor its offices. She also stated that there appeared to be an improvement in the process of reviewing applications for grants. She commended the Department on what it was trying to do, despite the impact of SASSA. She stated that the Director-General should take a far sterner stance over this entity, for its non-compliance negatively affected the whole Department. She agreed with Ms Mncube that perhaps legislation should be implemented to cement the Department’s role of oversight over SASSA.
The Minister agreed that amending the legislation would be a viable option, as currently the Department relied on the good relationship between the Director-General of DSD and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SASSA. The Department had a responsibility for entities’ oversight. Without legislation, the Department must still practise this function. Currently, submissions from SASSA passed through the office of the Director-General of the Department, before coming through the Minister’s office.
Ms Madadla asked if it would be possible to receive copies of the minutes of MinMEC as the decisions taken at national level did not appear to be implemented well in the provinces.
The Minister suggested that the Director-General should invite the Chairpersons of the Portfolio and Select Committees to attend the meetings of MinMEC. The Department was currently looking into the possibility of forming a council, similarly to those in the Education and Health sectors. This Council would be able to make binding decisions, as MinMEC was currently just a forum for discussion and could not enforce decisions. The proposal for this Council would be presented to Cabinet.
The Director-General added to this response by confirming that the decisions made in MinMEC were reached largely on consensus and were not binding. The Department had started drafting legislation to set up a Council whose decisions would be binding, although it had to take care that there would be no conflicts with the national and provincial fiscal autonomy. This tension would continue after a council was set up.
Ms Madadla commented that the Department should prioritise. In particular she highlighted the plight of older people who had to queue outside for their grants, and who were harassed, or their grant was given to others, so that it did not assist them directly. She also noted that patients and sick people might not be able to collect their grants, and that they too queued for their grants despite being unwell.
The Minister replied that the requirements of the Department were very rigid. If a social worker was already visiting the household, then the review of the issue should take place at the household. If an individual was unable to travel to the offices, there should be an alternative. This was particularly pertinent for older people. The Department had agreed that individuals over the age of 75 should be visited by the officials at home. This would enable the officials to monitor their treatment and care at home. The Department needed to find a way to ensure that the money from their grants went directly to them and not to proxies.
Mr Jerome added that there was a new approach by SASSA, as indicated by the Minister, in customer care, where the homes of individuals over the age of 75 would be visited. There were further attempts to explore other payment mechanisms, and already people could either put the money straight into back accounts. Point of sale devices should be expanded and the public service and administration should roll out the norms and standards of accessibility. MinMEC had considered the issue of loan sharks, who exploited the elderly, in depth. SASSA worked together with the National Credit Regulator, the Police, National Prosecuting Authority and Hawks. Many of the loan sharks were involved in other underground criminal activities, or were subcontracted to legal loan-lending institutions. MinMEC’s strategy was to prosecute offenders, educate individuals (which included access to counselling), and social mobilisation. This required a sustained campaign over a long period of time.
The Chairperson stated that when the Department of Basic Education (DBE)had tabled its own Annual Report to this committee, it had indicated that there was an integrated programme for Early Childhood Development between DBE and the DSD. She asked how this programme was progressing.
The Minister responded that the Department was running a campaign for Early Childhood Development (ECD), focused in rural areas. Over a period of three years, the Department hoped to fund 3 000 more Early Childhood Development centres. The Department of Basic Education was focused on the issue of training of caregivers. The biggest challenge was the building of these centres, as this was the responsibility of local government, not the Department. Currently, ECD centres were not run by the government but run by NGOs. She stated that education was an apex priority of the present government, and therefore the focus was on ECD, rather than the later schooling years, which was too late. An inter-ministerial committee would be formed, to include the Departments of Basic and Higher Education, Social Development, Health and Local Government.
Mr Faber asked what programmes had been put into place in the
Mr Madonsela stated that the money for social development in the provinces did not come from the national department, as it formed part of the equitable share. The experts in the provinces were the ones who decided how to divide the money.
Mr Modibya stated that R11, 7 billion was allocated to the provinces in the year 2011/12.
Mr T Mashamaite (ANC,
Mr Modibya responded that the National Treasury prescribed certain provisions relating to financial management, with standards that must be followed by all government bodies. The Auditor-General, however, was not in agreement with the National Treasury, so all departments have this statement on their reports. If there had been agreement, the report would state that the financial statements were properly prepared.
Ms M Makgate stated that where there was a community that was receiving grants, surely the DSD should be holding programmes to encourage this community to use their grants in order that they become self-sufficient.
The DSD responded that under Programme, the DSD would identify vulnerable people in communities, before establishing projects throughout the provinces to remove the burdens of grant beneficiaries and to encourage them not to be dependent on the grant.
Mr Rodgers Hlatshwayo, Chief Director: Strategy, DSD, explained that any exit strategy for grant recipients had to be premised on the fact that the challenge was larger than the DSD contribution alone. The government paid social grants primarily to women and children. He questioned whether this really meant that there was dependency. There was an issue that some of the grants may be used by the wrong people. He also said that the grants had a low income threshold, so many people who were employed, but were being paid low wages, still qualified for grants. The profile of those who collect grants showed that it was mostly women, who tended to encourage proper use of the grants in the households. There were many women with low levels of skills and education, but Government was attempting to link homesteads with economic activities. When the Department of Human Settlements contracted with a company to build a house, it should also encourage the community to gain skills, and similarly the Department of Agriculture was now focusing on upgrading the skills of small-scale farmers.
Ms Makgate noted that an organisation was not paid, because of non-compliance, and asked how the Department would ensure that it complied in future.
A DSD official replied that there were norms to transfer funds to organisations and thus there must be compliance with requirements, in order that the organisations remained accountable. In the cases under review, the organisations were too late to submit and the Department met with them to ensure that they followed the correct procedures in future. There were also some new members in the organisations that needed training.
Ms M Boroto (ANC,
Mr Jerome responded that it was not easy to organise about 9 900 pay points for grants over 15 to16 days each month. Usually, SASSA relied on local government infrastructure. The Department needed to stagger benefits across several days, so that the queues would be less, while also encouraging people to access their funds through the bank. Access to banking facilities should continue to be extended. This issue could not be solved overnight.
Ms Boroto asked if the norms and standards that apply to older peoples’ places of safety also applied to children. She stated that in many areas the places in which children lived were unsafe.
Dr Mabetoa replied that the same norms and standards did apply to children but their needs were addressed differently. Every organisation that was running a child or youth care centre had to be registered with the Department of Social Development. The municipalities organised an inspection of the premises, and a certificate of worthiness was granted. Unfortunately, there were many unregistered centres springing up at community level. Some were funded from overseas, and some by local business. The Department intended to audit all child care centres. Social workers sometimes referred people to unregistered centres. However this was a problem, for if a centre was unregistered, it could not be closed down, as there would then be nowhere for the children to go.
Ms B Mncube referred to the Minister’s statement that education was the apex priority of this government. She asked what that meant. The Department of Basic Education had stated that it was responsible for children aged between 5 and 9, and said that there needed to be a clear demarcation between the responsibilities of the Departments of Social Development and Basic Education. She stated that she was not convinced by Department’s position, as internal controls did not appear to be sufficient to minimise the risk when the funds were transferred to third parties. In these cases, she still thought that SASSA should still be held to account. The Auditor-General’s statement that there appears to be a lack of leadership seemed valid. The Department must ensure that there was paperwork to substantiate the agreement, and the third party must account for how the money was spent. The Department must strengthen its risk mechanism.
Mr Modibya replied that the role of the DSD was to have oversight over the operations of SASSA. SASSA had, within its operations, the mechanisms to put the relevant controls in place. The challenge was to ensure that each applicant for a grant had a file which supported the expenditure. The Department practiced oversight by ensuring that SASSA submitted reports to the DSD on a monthly basis, and by having a memorandum of agreement on cooperation on some operations.
Ms Madadla commented that the post office arranged that certain people must collect their grants on certain days, depending on how old they were. She had previously assumed that when individuals opened their accounts, they should be able to access the funds at any time after payment, but was informed that if the individual did not attend the post office on the given day, the money was simply carried over to the next month.
The Director-General replied that when an account was opened at a post office, the individual should be able to access his/her money at any time.
The Chairperson stated that when she had been doing oversight in
The Chairperson asked that the DSD must follow up on the issues mentioned, and add some additional comments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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