Department of Social Development 2012 Strategic Plan

Social Development

19 March 2012
Chairperson: Ms Y Botha (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development, led by the Director-General, detailed the Department’s budget and strategic plan for the 2012-2014/15 financial years. The Committee agreed that the Department’s strategic priorities were very important. The Committee wanted to know which provinces were not submitting information as required by the Central Drug Authority (CDA) to compile its reports. If provinces were failing to submit vital information on time, the Committee would have to consider taking action to solve those problems. The Committee noted that that the Department was short of the 50% gender representivity target at senior management level. The Director-General explained that recently, the Department had undergone an institutional realignment, during which the Minister had approved a new structure, which had to be approved by the Minister of Public Service and Administration. Once it was approved, the Department would make a conscious effort to achieve the gender representivity target. The Department should be able to provide “demonstrable progress” in that respect by the end of the current financial year, and would keep the Committee updated in that respect.

Meeting report

The Chairperson opened the meeting, and welcomed the delegation from Department of Social Development (DSD), led by the Director-General, Adv Vusi Madonsela. Apologies were relayed and accepted from the Minister of Social Development, who was unable to attend the meeting.

The Department’s Chief Director on Strategy,
Mr Rodgers Hlatshwayo, gave a presentation on the Department’s strategic overview, which included information on the Department’s strategic thrust, structure and strategic priorities. Social security initiatives made up the bulk of the Department’s budget. The Department’s strategic plan was guided by the Minister, who had highlighted key strategic priorities for the year ahead, including: the promotion of early childhood development; the expansion of child and youth care services; anti-substance abuse programmes; and provision of food to poor households. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) remained key to the Department’s work in terms of service delivery. The Department wanted to institutionalise a programme whereby it would work closely with communities in order to close the gap caused by a shortage of social workers. Families were one of the critical cornerstones of the work the Department aimed to do. He gave a detailed overview of the Department’s programme outputs and targets, with specific focus on social security – social assistance; social assistance and insurance; social security – appeals; social security – inspectorate; welfare services; community development; non-profit organisation; and special projects and innovation.

Mr Coceko Pakade, DSD Chief Financial Officer (CFO), gave the second part of the presentation, which dealt with the Department’s financial outlook. He set out changes to baseline allocations and budget allocations for the 2011/12-2014/15 financial years to give a breakdown of the Department’s planned expenditure in relation to its programme outputs and targets. The Department planned to strengthen its internal audit section as well as to improve governance issues. In response to the increased allocation to provinces by the National Treasury, the provinces had made certain commitments to contribute to the Department’s programmes, which was a positive step. The Department was in the process of securing the money that had been allocated to the provinces for social development, so that it would be spent for the purposes for which it was meant.

Discussion
The Chairperson requested information about the number of vacancies at senior level within the Department. She also asked for the gender breakdown of senior management positions. Ms M Mafolo (ANC) agreed that the vacancy rate and gender representation were important issues. She asked, with reference to slide 15 of the presentation, what was being done in terms of the registration of early childhood development programmes. She asked if there were enough substance abuse treatment centres to deal with the demand.

Ms P Xaba (ANC) raised a question relating to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), but the Chairperson reminded her that the Committee would be dealing with that topic on another day.

Ms P Tshwete (ANC) remarked that the presentation showed that there were a lot of deadlines set for March 2012, and enquired wondered whether those deadlines were in fact achievable. She made reference to slide 35 of the presentation, which dealt with the training of childcare practitioners and service providers, and remarked that she had not heard the Department talking about strengthening and training people who were already working on the ground in that field. She asked what the Department’s plan was in that respect, if any. She asked the same question with reference to the training referred to on slide 38.
She asked whether the budgetary amount allocated to the prevention and mitigation of disaster risks was sufficient. She also made reference to the fact that the Department had experienced problems with bursaries in the past, and asked whether the Department allocated bursaries on a national level, or whether certain numbers of bursaries were earmarked for each province.

Mr M Waters (DA) asked what the Department was doing about implementing a syllabus for early childhood development and whether the Department was working with the Department of Basic Education to ensure that the envisaged programme was enforced throughout the country. He remarked that it was depressing that the issue of substance abuse kept coming up over the years, and asked whether the Department’s anti-substance abuse project had been scrapped, since he had not heard it mentioned in the presentation. He asked for more detail with regard to prevention programmes for youth. With regard to food assistance to the poor, he asked how poor households were identified, and whether the assistance took the form of food parcels, or whether people were empowered to grow their own crops. He remarked that the integrity of the social security system as run by SASSA was brought into question by the fact that only 20% of its staff had been vetted, and that this raised concerns of potential corruption. He asked why some staff were only vetted years after they were first appointed, and what the Department’s plans were in this respect. He asked, with reference to slide 29, whether the NGO sector had been consulted, and what form such consultation had taken. He asked whether the Department was linking up with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s Sexual Offenders Register in order to bolster its Child Protection Register. He asked, with reference to slide 36, by what percentage the Department aimed to reduce drug abuse. He moved to slide 39, and asked what about the “change agents” referred to, how were they identified, and who determined how they were appointed.

Mr R Bhoola (MF) wanted to know more about the Department’s plans to reduce fraud and corruption. He asked whether the fingerprint initiative was assisting the Department maximally in this respect. He made reference to the baseline allocations directed towards youth programmes, and stated that the Department had indicated that not much had been achieved in that respect. He asked what the challenges were, and what the Department planned to do to meet them. He asked whether there was any outside funding to help to make up for the challenges raised by the recent budget cuts. He wanted to know whether the Department was happy with the capital assets existing at its service centres, particularly those based in rural areas, and whether those centres were properly equipped with IT infrastructure. He asked what the Department’s strategy was to obtain a clean audit in the year to come. The Department placed a lot of emphasis on the rights of people, but in many cases, the appropriate structures were not in place to administer those rights, a situation especially true in the rural areas. He asked about the Department’s plan of action in this respect. He remarked, with reference to the issue of food security, that in the rural context, social relief might carry people for a month or two, but then budget problems would inevitably recur.

Mr Waters said that while 1,5 million children were adopted by family members, only 0,5 million received foster care grants. He asked what was happening to ensure that the remaining million foster care grants were paid out.

The Chairperson made reference to the Department’s strategic priorities as listed on slide 15, and noted that they were very important. On the priority of early childhood development, she asked Mr Madonsela whether the Department had obtained consensus from the provinces around the payment of child subsidy grants per-child, per-day. She referred to the listed strategic objective of anti-substance abuse, and said that members of the Committee were excited about increasing capacity in this respect, but noted that the Central Drug Authority (CDA) had not yet tabled its strategic plan or annual performance plan in Parliament. The Committee was not happy with the performance of the CDA in that respect. The Committee wanted to know which provinces were not submitting information as required by the CDA to compile its reports. If provinces were failing to submit vital information on time, the Committee would have to consider taking action to solve some of those problems. The Department’s anti-substance abuse programme was “very alive” in the provinces, although it had not been rolled out in every school in the country. She asked Mr Madonsela to give more information about the Department’s policy on the provision of food for poor households. She noted that the Department’s presentation did not give much detail about international work, although “participation in multi-lateral institutions” had been mentioned in the Department’s annual performance plan. She requested more information in that regard. There was nothing specific listed under the targets for 2012/13, and she asked whether that meant that the Department would not be supporting UN programmes. Further, there was nothing listed as medium-term targets under the category “participation with international organisations”. The Committee needed more information in that respect. She asked representatives of the Department to give more clarity on the Department’s role vis a vis the various provinces in the social development sector.

Mr Eugene Webster, DSD Chief Director:
Human Capital Management, addressed the question of the gender breakdown of the Department’s staff. On level 15, the percentage of female representivity was 25%. On level 14, it was 48%, and on level 13, it was 49%. There was a total of 105 senior management posts within the Department.

The Chairperson stated that that the Department was short of the target on SMS level and asked the Director-General why. Mr Madonsela replied that the Department had strived to achieve the 50% goal as set by Cabinet, and that recently, the Department had undergone an institutional realignment, during which the Minister had approved a new structure, which had to be approved by the Minister of Public Service and Administration. Once it was approved, the Department would make a conscious effort to achieve the gender representivity target. The Department should be able to provide “demonstrable progress” in that respect by the end of the current financial year, and would keep the Committee updated in that respect. On the question of the establishment of an inspectorate, as provided for in Chapter 4 of the Social Assistance Act, 2004 (Act No. 13 of 2004), he explained that since the enactment of that legislation, the Department had never received any allocation from the National Treasury for the establishment of an inspectorate. The figures in the presentation reflected the first time that an allocation had been received for that purpose. The Department was now empowered to make faster progress in the establishment of the inspectorate.

Regarding the policy on financial awards, the court case in the Free State came long after the National Department had already started revising the policy on financial awards as a result of obvious inadequacies. There were some issues that continued to bedevil the environment of financing in the context of NGOs. Some NGOs believed that they were taking care of government responsibilities, and expected to be funded 100%. At the same time, the Department recognised that NGOs did not only rely on the state for funding. The Department had placed a plan before the court dealing with a policy intervention in respect of emerging NGOs, especially community-based organisations, as well as established NGOs, and their financial needs. While NGOs insisted on 100% funding from government, they refused to disclose the sources of their additional funding.

Mr Pakade said that there were 1 973 community development practitioners in the country. As the Department introduced new policies and approaches, a need would arise to provide training to bring community development practitioners into line with the new approaches. The Department had a new toolkit to capacitate and train practitioners. “Change agents” were identified and appointed during community profiling and dialogues. The Department trained them to establish community forums for community members to report to. The Department focused on change agents, who periodically gave report-backs on community forums. They were essentially community members who were assigned to take responsibility for various aspects of their communities. On the issue of food security, households in need were identified during community profiling exercises. The Department also made use of the StatsSA database and the Department of Health’s data, which indicated pockets of poverty. The Department also adopted the “active search” technique, learned from Brazil, to search for people in need of food. The relationships that the Department had forged with the Departments of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Departments of Health were of great assistance in this respect. The Department was moving beyond the food parcel approach to more sustainable methods, including the establishment of food gardens and of cooperatives, under the auspices of the Department of Trade and Industry, in order to find answers for the long-term.

Mr Selwyn Jehoma, Deputy Director-General: Department of Social Development, spoke on the matter of social security. In cases where a caregiver did not have a birth certificate for a child, social grants could still be issued by SASSA without the relevant documents, in terms of recent adjustments to the regulations. On the need to have more funds available for disaster prevention, he explained that the government had made millions of Rand available to the body responsible for disaster prevention. The Department’s role was to assist communities with the information needed to access services in that respect. On the issue of foster care grants, he explained that the backlog of cases within the justice system caused delays, as the Department could only process applications that had made it through the court system. The Department was currently reviewing its foster care policy, as demographics and poverty had changed since the foster care programme had first been rolled out. The relevant study would be available the following week. On the topic of international participation, the Department still played a role in the International Social Security Association (ISSA), and the Director-General sat on the BRICS committee dealing with social security. Although there was a view held by some within the Department that it should stick to its core priorities, there was still international participation taking place.

Dr Maria Mabetoa, DSD Deputy Director-General:
Welfare Services, addressed issues around welfare services. The Department had reached consensus on the amount needed per child per day for early childhood development programmes. There were still challenges in obtaining the necessary funds, as they would only become available from 2013 onwards. On anti-substance abuse initiatives, she explained that the provinces with bigger cities required more drug treatment centres. The Western Cape had the most treatment centres, followed by Gauteng. Neither the Northern Cape nor Limpopo had a single registered treatment centre, but that would change, as the Department had agreed that there should be at least one centre in each province. The CDA’s annual report had been delayed, and as a result, had been submitted late.

The Chairperson asked when the CDA’s strategic plan would be tabled, to which Dr Mabetoa replied that the Department would forward the query to the CDA. On the question of training, Dr Mabetoa added that the Department was responsible for training probation officers and social workers in terms of the Child Justice Act, 2008 (Act No. 75 of 2008). To this end, the Department was targeting professionals who already worked with children. On the issue of bursaries, allocations were determined by the number of first-year students who qualified to train as social workers. The Department was actively trying to distribute the bursaries in accordance with the particular population numbers in different provinces. Early childhood development norms and standards and curriculum were in place, but were inadequate. Some sites where children attended early childhood development programmes left much to be desired. The Department was looking at way to provide affordable norms and standards on a municipality level, and recognised the need to undertake an audit in this respect. The early childhood development curriculum was currently being further developed with the assistance of the Department of Basic Education.

Dr Maria Mabetoa said the national anti-substance abuse programme was being evaluated to identify gaps for the purposes of strengthening that programme. The Department of Basic Education was responsible for anti-substance abuse programmes at schools, and the Department of Social Development was working with them, and the Department of Police, to provide such programmes. The Department needed newer statistics on alcohol and drug abuse rates, as the most recent figures were from 2000-2004. The provinces were required to set substance abuse reduction targets, but the Department was still waiting for the provinces to submit their Plans of Action in this respect. The Department would be engaged in further consultations with NGOs on how to improve its policies. On the matter of the Child Protection Register, the Department did cooperate with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, and shared its Sexual Offenders Register. The Child Protection Register was more comprehensive than the Sexual Offenders Register, as it dealt with offences other than sexual offences that were committed against children, including maltreatment and murder. The information on the register was mainly obtained from early childhood development sites and from NGOs that worked with children. The register had only been started the year before, and the Department needed assistance from the Department of Basic Education to get teachers on board. Overall, the Department had worked towards implementation of the Child Justice Act with the assistance of the JCPS Cluster. The figures relating to children in early childhood development programmes had been provided to the Committee Secretary.

Mr Madonsela addressed Mr Waters’ question on the vetting of staff. While it was true that 80% of SASSA staff had still not been vetted, Mr Waters’ question assumed that people needed to be vetted before they were employed, but this was not necessarily the case. Many staff working in the National Department had been transferred from provincial Department of Social Development positions. Most new appointments had however been vetted. There were challenges in respect of the capacity of the State Security Agency to vet staff. The vetting process for a single person required a lot of time and work, and there were not enough resources available to allow the State Security Agency to turn the vetting situation around right away. The Department had prioritised the vetting of people in senior positions who worked in sensitive areas.

The Chairperson pointed out that government had a national information system which set out differing levels of security clearance. That was not to be confused with the vetting process which was the responsibility of a particular Department. State Security Agency security clearance was an integral part of a Department’s vetting process and security plan. Mr Madonsela agreed with the Chairperson, and said that it was not necessary for all staff to undergo comprehensive security clearance. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SASSA was best placed to indicate how many of the staff who worked in sensitive areas had been vetted. Mr Madonsela would ask him to prepare that information for the Committee’s benefit.

On the Food-for-All programme, Mr Madonsela explained that households were to be identified by using malnutrition as an important indicator of poverty. The Department was currently working with the Department of Health to obtain that information. On the topic of the 187 000 jobs to be provided by the Department, it had to be clarified that some of those work opportunities were not permanent jobs, but positions that would range from six to 24 months. The creation of those opportunities was not the responsibility of the Department alone. The Department hoped to expand the number of early childhood development practitioners by 10%. People placed in learnership programmes for early childhood development and community-based care would necessarily be in those positions for a long time. Other areas of expansion within the social sector included increased participation in sport, which would be led by the Department of Sports and Recreation, working with the Department of Basic Education. Schools were envisaged as centres of excellence in the field of sports. The Department was also planning a mass literacy programme, which would be linked to the Department of Basic Education. All of these initiatives would together account for the 187 000 promised jobs. This project was different from the existing community works programme.

Mr Jehoma responded to Mr Bhoola’s question about the success of data comparison and fingerprinting systems by explaining that fingerprint verification systems were currently only available at paypoints. The Department had plans to extend fingerprinting to staff who dealt with applications for social assistance grants.

The Department’s Chief Director on Strategy said that there were a number of deadlines for March 2012, since the Department’s delivery period took place between March and April of each year, and that the Department broke its annual targets into quarterly targets. Some of the Department’s objectives would, however, only be delivered over a period of three years. The national government was responsible for policy directives, and the Department would use policy to direct its counterparts on a provincial level. Fortunately, the National Department worked well with the provinces. The National Department also needed to take responsibility for what took place on a municipal level. There were guiding documents related to service delivery agreements. On the topic of the Department’s communication on rights, part of the Department’s responsibility was to provide constitutional rights, and it had decided to increase its communication budget to use television and radio to promote rights. There were also plans underway to take the Department of Social Development to the people. The Department was still busy establishing proper baseline targets.

Mr Pakade said that the core services of the Department were not only provided by the provinces, but also by SASSA. The Department had negotiated with the National Treasury for funds to be put towards the national infrastructure plan. Some local offices were in dire need of urgent interventions, and those offices were prioritised for assistance. The infrastructure plan would assist further in this respect. On the matter of human rights, the Department was looking at the ways it was providing services, and had set up a customer care unit to help NGOs who worked with the Department to identify areas in need of service. Ultimately, the Department needed more data in order to do its job properly.

Mr Madonsela said, with regard to international engagements, that the presentation had not set out the totality of the international engagements currently in place. The Department intended continue its engagements with countries with which it had existing agreements. The Department would facilitate interactions between the Portfolio Committee and the other bodies with which it collaborated.

The Chairperson thanked the Department for the engagement. The Committee had noted what had been said during the meeting. The meeting was adjourned.

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