SA Social Security Agency & National Development Agency: Strategic & Annual Plans 2012

Social Development

17 April 2012
Chairperson: Ms Y Botha (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) presented its strategic plans and annual performance plan for the Agency (SASSA).It emphasised the changes in the vision and mission, to more customer-centric approaches. The numbers of beneficiaries in each of the grants were outlined, and it was noted that a four-stage process had been instituted to standardise business processes. Significant features included improvement of the operating model, more and improved front-line staff, improvement of offices and paypoints, automation and better alignment, and improvements in combating fraud and corruption. The improvements in the provinces were outlined. The target of having 300 pay points had been achieved. A rollout of the I-Gap model was being tested. Both SASA itself and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had investigated cases of fraud and corruption, with 3 million instances being submitted to SIU. 37 SASSA officials were under investigation and 27 had been arrested. The past problems with filing and warehousing were explained. 797 000 grant applications had been reviewed. One of SASSA’s major challenges remained as the huge vacancy rate, which meant that it had to use a service provider for the payouts, but SASSA was aiming to take over payouts itself once the service providers’ contract expired. It was placing great emphasis on customer service and training, and ICT solutions. It had no fully operational Risk Management Unit, but was working on this. A biometric system was to be introduced. The budget for expenditure was R6.1 million, compared to R5.4 million in the previous year, and the bulk of this went to paying service providers, and to personnel costs. Another major project related to the Improved Community Registration Outreach Programme (ICROP), to address the number of children who were not yet reached by the SASSA. It was also explained that those who held a slip from the Department of Home Affairs noting that they had made application for an ID could be assisted. It was aiming for better standardisation of the offices.

Members noted the need for another meeting to get full responses on financial issues, prior to the budget vote. Members asked how SASSA planned to improve the staff situation, particularly in relation to proper filing systems, to ensure that loss of files was minimised, and asked also what strategy had been compiled in relation to people crossing the border from other countries to access social security grants. They queried what was done in relation to the rural areas, including the specific efforts on the Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programme, and how it would, in future, ensure improved communication in these areas in particular, given the change in the systems. They also wanted to know the progress in re-registrations, and the process followed, asked if alternative energy would be used once all offices were automated, and more than one member expressed concern that the risk management processes were not as effective as they could be. The rationale for changing the current model was questioned, as well as the measures put in place to deal with fraud and corruption, and who was paying the Special Investigating Unit. The statistics on fraud were to be sent to the Committee. Members had concerns about the beneficiary slip issued by the Department of Home Affairs, and asked questions on the access to and use of the new card system. The language policy and translation services were also questioned. 

The National Development Agency (NDA) concentrated on early childhood development and addressing poverty at an early stage. Inflation and rising food prices were problematic, and NDA aimed to enable those in poor communities to generate income, by identification of skills, so that communities were not totally reliant on social grants. Its challenges included lack of funding, which it aimed to address by embarking on entrepreneurial activities, and had established the Project Management Unit for generation of income. It also needed to enhance capacity of service providers, upgrade and strengthen non government and community organisations, improve its visibility and performance management and relationships with other stakeholders. Programmes would be carried out to meet the development needs of poor communities, and it would undertake research to provide the basis of development policy, strengthen its own and partners’ institutional capacity and promote debate and dialogue. Its budget of R75 million was allocated by R22.4 million to each of ECD and food security, R10 million to income generation and R4.2 million to capacity building, as the major items. NDA estimated that the amount of revenue from the Project Management Unit (PMU) could be R3 million in 2013/14, rising to R6 million and R10 million in the following two financial years.

Some Members were critical of the presentation, stating that it seemed there had been little progress, and commented that the indicators in the strategic plans surely fell under other departments or entities, but other Members felt that some progress was apparent, although they urged the NDA to be more creative in its approach. They questioned the fact that half the budget went to administration and staff salaries, questioned the high budget allocations for bonuses and asked questions on who decided upon these, and on what basis they were awarded, and also asked about the sources of income and how the financial situation could be improved, given a lowered allocation by National Treasury. Members asked about particular strategies for children, including housing and early childhood development assistance, and said that more emphasis was needed on food security, whilst NDA should also try to ensure that the projects – particularly those related to agriculture – were more successful, stressing that better monitoring and evaluation were needed. The plans for assisting and using non-government organisations were queried, and Members suggested that more focus was needed on research. The future organisational structure was also interrogated, and the NDA was urged to highlight its particular challenges. It had already reduced administration costs, through restructuring and hoped to reposition itself as an agency whom the public could approach for other resources.

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson expressed concern that only two representatives from the National Development Agency (NDA) were present, and asked the Committee if they should be allowed to make the presentation. They tendered an apology from Dr Vuyelwa Nhlapa, the Chief Executive Officer.

The representatives clarified that in fact the delegation was larger, and the decision was that the NDA would be able to proceed.

A Member tendered an apology from another Member, and the Chairperson noted that in future all apologies should be in writing.

South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) Strategic Plan 2012/13-2016/17, and Annual Performance Plan 2012/13-2014/15
Ms Virginia Petersen, Acting Chief Executive Officer, South African Social Security Agency, presented the strategic plans and annual performance plan for the Agency (SASSA). She noted that SASSA had recently changed its vision. The previous vision was to have a comprehensive social security services that assisted people in being self-sufficient and supporting those in need. However, the new vision was to be a leader in the delivery of social security services. The mission of SASSA had also changed, and it now aimed to administer quality customer-centric social security services to eligible and potential beneficiaries.

She noted that there were 15.5 million beneficiaries as at end March 2012.The child  support beneficiaries had increased from 4.9 million,  to 10.3 million. The beneficiaries of the Older Persons grant had increased from 2.78 to 2.8 million, whilst the Disability grant figures were at 1.9 million. Card dependency went from 1.12 million to an increase of 1.14 million. War veteran beneficiaries had decreased to 753 payments, from 958 in the previous year.

SASSA had achieved savings of R800 million, and  that was taken into account by the National treasury when allocations were made this year.

Ms Petersen noted that SASSA aimed to standardise the application process, through a four-step business project. The project sought to localise the operating model, and, more importantly, it spoke to front-line staff, with whom beneficiaries would come into contact first. Other initiatives included the improvement of local offices and pay-points, the automation of services, improved management of reviews and life certification, and Improvement in combating fraud and corruption.

As at end March, Free State had eight offices, of which four were improved and the other four had experienced delays in the supply of materials and SASSA needed to better monitor the procurement process. In KwaZulu Natal, 20 offices were running but only seven were improved, because SASSA was working with a partner to try to achieve this. In Eastern Cape there was a target of 20 offices., but only twelve were complete and SASSA was not happy with the procurement and cost around the others. The target of improvement was reached in all 20 offices in Northern Cape, and all nine in North West. Limpopo had managed to improve six out of eight offices but the building in which the other two offices were based would not be viable for upgrade and SASSA wanted to invest in a building. In Gauteng, twelve of the target of fourteen offices were improved. In Mpumalanga, three out of the target of four were improved, and the last was in progress at the moment. Western Cape had improved one office, but there were delays in the other three, because of partnership arrangements with Department of Public Works (DPW). These should be completed in the next quarter. 

There was a target of 300 pay-points and this target had been achieved. The list was circulated to the Committee.

Ms Petersen said that the automation process was critical, and its success would depend on the right investment decisions being taken. The lack of an automated system would not help SASSA to move forward, and it therefore aimed to implement a system that would be integrated in end-to-end user solutions. Presently, the I-Gap Model was used, which she presented to the Committee. It had been rolled out in the Free State, and stress tests were being run on the system to see if it could cope with more numbers.

There had been improvements in detecting and combating fraud and corruption was done, both by SASSA and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).  SASSA investigated 1 298 cases and the SIU investigated 2 055. Last year SASSA submitted 3 million cases to the SIU for investigation. There were 37 SASSA officials under investigation and 27 had been criminally charged to date. There were 517 beneficiaries who were investigated and arrested for fraud. 3 700 beneficiary verifications around fraud were necessary. Some questions had been raised around the payments to the SIU and affordability, and National Treasury had ruled that  in future National Treasury would make payments directly. It was necessary to understand the huge level of fraud and the fact that beneficiary fraud was the responsibility of SASSA and Department of Social Development (DSD).

Ms Petersen then moved on to outline the situation around the two qualifications relating to SASSA in the DSD audit. These related to filing, and to warehousing systems. Staff at SASSA were not adequately trained to work in the warehouses, and although there had been difficulties, there had been work study investigations. Automation should help in reducing the problems. Application forms had been reduced from 20 pages down to six, and this also would assist with storage. SASSA could choose either to outsource destruction of files, or deal with this internally, and at the moment those files that could not be found were being tracked and sent to the correct provinces. 2 million files needed to be destroyed, but were still in storage.

There were 797 000 reviews on grants done, and sometimes these resulted in the re-establishment of grants.

Another key priority, in terms of staff, was to employ more junior staff. 1 100 junior staff were employed between December 2011 and March 2012. More front-line staff were needed. 

SASSA aimed to promote good governance, and this was shown by the fact that it had an improved audit in the last year.

The main strategic objectives were then set out (see attached presentation for full details). One of the main points related to the huge vacancy rate as compared to its current staff of 8 000. This accounted for SASSA's inability to cope with its mandate. At the moment, SASSA was still only dealing with the grant application process, whilst a service provider did the paying out of grants, although staff would be put in place, over time, to pay out as well, at the end of the service provider contract.  Ms Petersen said that she was committed to seeing that this was done.

Customer service and training were particularly vital, and she also aimed to ensure that  everyone in SASSA adhered to the norms and standard of the Department of Social Development, to ensure that the correct grants were paid out, that the means test received attention and that there were quality customer services. She noted that training and providing uniforms were ongoing, and the uniform was intended to facilitate engagement of customers with SASSA staff.

ICT was another important priority in this year, and end to end solutions would be implemented in nine provinces.

Ms Petersen aimed to address the negative image, through management change, but noted that SASSA was still managing to ensure that grants were paid out, despite difficulties.

SASSA did not yet have a fully-operational Risk Management Unit, but was working on this and would report on the progress to achieving this in the next month. The Risk Management Plan meant that .SASSA must adhere to the standards, duties and responsibilities of SASSA, regardless of the external problems.

In order to reduce risk of corruption and to increase security, SASSA aimed to introduce the Biometric system, which she explained was use of fingerprint technology to access applications and other functions on the system. It was currently procuring this. 

Ms Petersen noted that savings had been achieved due to renegotiation of the unit costs with the current service provider who assisted SASSA in the payment of grants. SASSA has also instituted austerity measures and was able to save money, which was offset against past debt.

The budget over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) was tabled. The budget for expenditure was R6.1 million, compared to R5.4 million in the previous year. The line items were set out (see attached presentation). The bulk of the budget went to paying the service providers, and personnel costs. Cost drivers and structure of SASSA remained the same as in previous years.

Ms Petersen noted that projections were set out in the Annual Performance Plan (see attached presentation). The target for making foster care payments was 100%. Other targets in SASSA would be greatly enhanced and achieved because of the current re-registration process and it was intended that all beneficiary information would be loaded by June. SASSA was aware of the level of complaints against doctors, and was working towards contracting doctors of high quality, and reporting any unethical practices to the professional boards.

There was a target of 400 pay points, and offices would be improved by making provision for shelter, chairs, drinking water and sanitation. Those who were over 75 years old would be paid at their homes, and other groups could be paid through other methods.

Ms Petersen noted that SASSA was working on the Improved Community Registration Outreach Programme (ICROP), and addressing the UNICEF report that 2 million children were not reached, particularly on farms and remote rural areas.

Ms Petersen explained that grants could be paid to beneficiaries who held a slip from Department of Home Affairs, having applied for an ID document, but that identity would be verified in a three-month period.

Other areas outlined were the joining of the Phelophepa project, to participate in outreach, and plans would be provided. Targets for finalising appeals, both internal and through the tribunal, were 90 days. Its Internal Audit function was identifying weaknesses in internal controls. SIU targets were 300 cases this year, although she pointed out that some cases could take up to five years to finalise. There were attempts to achieve as much integration as possible, so that different provincial offices did not act in different ways.

National Treasury had apparently indicated its approval of the Annual Performance Plan, and finally Ms Petersen commended the work of the SASSA staff.

Discussion
Mr M Waters (DA) was concerned that not all the individuals in the bid or evaluation teams seemed to be present at this meeting.

The Chairperson said that prior to the budget vote debate on 22 May, she would ask the Minister for another meeting so that all the accountable staff were present.

Ms Petersen noted that she was the Acting Chief Executive Officer, but would not shy away from responsibilities and would try to answer all questions.

The Chairperson responded that it was appreciated that she would exercise authority where this was given to her, but it was nonetheless desirable to have the executive and all relevant people present when discussing sensitive issues.

A Member asked what SASSA planned to do about the staff who were not well trained, and also asked how SASSA intended to ensure better governance of staff activities. The Member wanted, in particular, more detail on the filing systems and what had been done to prevent the destruction or loss of files through poor staff actions.

Ms Petersen acknowledged the need for more training in the tracking of files, and a good tracking system was dependent on good tracking orders. SASSA dealt with about 15 million people and around 20 million files. It therefore had to have individuals who were well trained and were able to retrieve files once they were filed away. A group was currently in training and SASSA had developed the job description. Some people were specifically assigned to warehouses, and they had to be properly trained and have protective gear. Another option to the tracking system was to use the metro file system. This year, SASSA had had to make a decision whether to outsource, or use internal resources; it currently used both. SASSA had been building capacity and Human Capital Management (HCM) would attend the next meeting, with a work study document indicating the number of people needed to take care of the files. SASSA had looked at the relative costs of document warehousing and metro filing, and had also compared the costs of the two service providers that were currently used – namely Metro File in KwaZulu Natal (KZN) and Document Warehouse in Gauteng. The KZN contract was poor and would be brought to an end, since a charge was levied for recovery of every single file. However, she noted that the Annual Report showed that there had been progress.

A Member asked what strategy SASSA had adopted to deal with the issue of immigrants, especially those from Mozambique and Swaziland, and how SASSA ran the Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programme (ICROP) in the border areas.

Ms Petersen answered that SASSA was aware of the cross-border migration or travel issues, and the Cross Border Project was addressing them, and was now monitoring the border point. SASSA’s previous attempts to monitor the number of people living in one district, the number of people that used the offices, and the movement and usage of the pay-points did not provide information on the trends. SASSA was putting in place a team made up of SASSA investigation staff, staff from Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and other agencies who monitored borders points. A couple of pilot studies had been done, and there were some other plans in place, which Ms Petersen noted could not be revealed at this stage as this would defeat the purpose of the plans. SASSA had assigned staff to deal with the matter. The main problem was that people from other countries crossed the border for a number of reasons, including using hospital services, government offices,  collecting the rent from RDP houses and using the pay-points. The chiefs in these areas often acknowledged the individuals crossing the borders and even referred to them as “citizens”. Often, relatives from the same families lived on one side and the other of the border. More investigations needed to be done before SASSA could confirm the numbers. After the task team had done tracking of movement and trends, actions would be taken, which could involve DHA and the South African Police Service (SAPS).  Later in the year, the results of the study could be presented.

Ms Petersen then noted that SASSA would send the grant administrator and Secretariat in relation to ICROP. SASSA looked at the population figures, particularly in the poorest areas, and a number of questions needed to be answered to give better and more accurate results. SASSA would also get calls from local community leaders and religious leaders, pointing out the number of individuals in their communities who were not accessing the services of SASSA. SASSA would then go to find out the reasons. The baseline number of communities was likely to change at the end of the year. A list of the calls received, and the customer care given, could be provided.

A Member asked how SASSA would ensure correct and effective communication systems in remote rural areas, and how people in these areas would be advised about the new systems.

Ms Petersen responded that SASSA would be busy with marketing in this year, as SASSA had to get support from the community, because of the re-registration phase. It would be making targeted communication efforts. When the card-swop started, on 1 April, a number of problems became apparent, because people were not registered at certain pay-points, but collected their funds from there, because funds were available. Other individuals called to collect their funds on days that were not allocated to them, and both these scenarios caused congestion. In the rural areas, the marketing strategy would be done using schools, clinics and churches as well as a SASSA newspaper. SASSA had made the decision to outsource, though it was not its first preference. The advertisement for the communications service provider had been placed and would be in the newspapers over the weekend. In the following year, however, SASSA would again use its previous avenues for marketing and communication. Radio was still the active means of communication in South Africa, as well as  local radio and local newspapers, and all would be used to carry information about SASSA. The elderly were targeted via their children and grandchildren, who usually were the members of the family who were in communication with SASSA, often on e-mail, and SASSA would then interact with the beneficiary once that beneficiary became aware of the changes.

Ms M Mafolo (ANC) asked the level of progress achieved in the provinces for re-registration.

Ms Petersen noted that re-registration was a multi-phased programme, which commenced on 1 March, when the target was to card swop, for Sekulula and new beneficiaries. She explained that this card was not the same as a commercial card, but was intended to ease the pressure on pay points. This project had started in Gauteng. In the past, two payment models were available; the first using cash payments, and the second using the Sekulula Card, a no-fee card provided in conjunction with the banks. However, there was confusion on what Sekulula in fact was. Beneficiaries were asked to show their old card to SASSA and would then be issued with a replacement card. Some beneficiaries were still using their old cards. There was further confusion because ABSA Bank said that it could also do a card swap at the bank. In March, over 800 000 card swaps were effected. Phase 2 of the project would enable those formerly on the cash payment model to effect a change to the Sekulula model. However, people were placing a lot of pressure on the pay points prior to Easter, by calling in to collect their funds on days not allocated to them.

The Chairperson interjected to ask SASSA to keep the answers brief, in view of the shortage of time, and said that another session could be arranged to deal with re-registration.

Ms Petersen concluded that the second phase was not running and 75% of cash beneficiaries had been paid in the previous week. Eventually, very few people would be collecting cash payments. The third phase would begin on 1 June, and during this phase all beneficiaries would be asked questions about their deductions, benefits and contact details.

Ms Mafolo asked what sources of energy would be used for the automation processes, noting that there was often no secure electricity supply, and wondering if SASSA was intending to use alternative energy sources.

Ms Mafolo asked how long it could take to transfer files, what would happen during the transfer process and whether clients would still receive their funds.

Ms Mafolo said it was her impression that there appeared not to had been good risk management plans between the departments, and asked for comment on this, and whether this had been the situation since 1994. She urged that such plans were important, citing the instances of fraud and corruption, particularly around financial matters.

Ms Mafolo wanted the reasons behind the plan to change the current payment model.

Mr V Magagula (ANC) asked what mechanisms had been put in place to deal with fraud and corruption and what measures were in place to make sure the funds were given to the right person. He further asked the steps taken to get to court if there were instance of fraud. He noted that with the manual payment, individuals needed only their green bar-coded identity card or the Home Affairs beneficiary slip. If SASSA was aware that the beneficiary slip had the potential for fraud and corruption, then another system should be found.

Ms Petersen noted that SASSA could forward the statistics on fraud, and these would indicate what had happened, what actions had been taken, and the places where this was done.

Ms Petersen also reiterated that SASSA had a Risk and Disaster Plan in place, but was currently improving it. She stressed that there was currently a plan. In the past, SASSA used vouchers, but now that it was moving to a card system, in response to the changing environment, the risk also altered and could be reduced. The Vouchers Committee had undertaken to set up an advisory committee in preparation for a new Risk Management Plan and the future. This would probably over time become a new branch, and this would require technical support and a technical team. Experts used during this period would be paid to serve on the Committee.

With medical services SASSA was trying to make visible changes for the monitoring and evaluation

Mr M Waters (DA) commented that SASSA had stated that its mandate was “to ensure the provision of comprehensive social security services”. He disputed this, saying that this was the function of the Department of Social Development (DSD). He believed that the mandate of SASSA was to ensure the provision of grants, not of social security services.

Ms TE Kenye (ANC) congratulated SASSA for the work it was doing, saying that there had been an improvement in the services that the public was receiving. Ms Kenye expressed her disquiet about an instance where a disabled person was mistreated by a medical doctor, but was pleased to hear that SASSA was dealing with such issues.

Another Member noted that there was progress and similarly urged SASSA to keep up its good work. She supported the plan to introduce uniform for the staff at SASSA, saying that this would assist the committee when doing oversight, would clearly distinguish SASSA from fund collectors and help in monitoring SASSA employees.

A Member asked for the list of paypoints that had been improved, also for use by the Committee during oversight work.

A Member asked if the employees were aware of the beneficiary slip and whether they were informed that they could accept beneficiary slips when funds needed to be paid out.

Ms Petersen said that she acknowledged the concerns around the beneficiary slip, but said that SASSA would verify the identity of beneficiaries. When there was a repeat of beneficiaries, the verification process was longer, and after three months, the beneficiary would again be called in for verification and confirmation of the document. SASSA would train and educate its staff on the verification of beneficiary slips and identification. It was understandable that there were concerns around the it, due to the high level of fraud, but the training would be ongoing, both into the verification of the beneficiary slip, and in customer service. A beneficiary slip issued by the Department of Home Affairs would be accepted. She noted that some staff felt intimidated when faced with the beneficiary slip, but SASSA viewed its services as a product, and was constantly trying to improve it.

Ms Mafolo said that there had been a number informal complaints regarding the new system, including that the cards were unable to be used at Edgars or Shoprite. She asked if there was an option only to use the card if the beneficiary did not want to have cash.

The Chairperson said that Ms Mafolo had raised an issue not dealt with in the presentation, but said that Members could get information on these matters from SASSA, rather than relying on media reports, which often tended to exaggerate the situation.

Ms Petersen noted that SASSA would prefer that the card be used to buy food rather than clothes. The key and central issue was what was available in that community.

A Member noted that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) was conducting investigations, but she wanted to know who would pay for these.

Ms Petersen responded that SASSA said that the SIU in future would be getting an allocation directly from the National Treasury rather than being paid by SASSA. There were challenges when the payments were made to the SIU by SASSA.

A Member was still worried as to what SASSA would be doing in the rural areas, and was particularly concerned about the language of communication, and what strategy was in place to overcome to challenges in communication.

Ms Petersen reiterated that a specialist company would be employed for the purpose of telling SASSA the most appropriate and effective communication methods to utilise in the community. A short survey had already been done, through which SASSA learned that those in rural areas were most affected and in need of services, and that there was a positive response when traditional leaders and the religious entities of the communities were approached. The traditional leaders would also be able to be tell SASSA and the outsourced company what type of communication may be most effective. In the different regions, the regional executives should be able to offer input. SASSA was not so much interested in what that company would be communicating to the communities, but in how communication should take place, as the communities should offer their input. By the end of the year, the effectiveness should be able to be assessed.

Mr Magagula said that the use of the term “madala” in the SASSA newspaper did not show the necessary respect towards the elderly, and asked that it be amended.

Ms Petersen said that the word was used in the colloquial sense and apologised if it was offensive. It would be removed.

A Member asked if SASSA had checked whether ICROP was accessible in the poorer provinces and communities, and whether it took account of the different languages. In this regard, she asked if SASSA had developed, or was developing, a language policy.

The Chairperson asked SASSA to compile a list of the projects for ICROP.

Ms Petersen confirmed that this would be done.


Ms Petersen then explained that, in regard to languages, SASSA had spoken to a number of centres, including those dealing with the disabled, and had engaged its constituents in the community to establish the predominantly-spoken language of an area, in order to make its communications in that language. There was always one control document in English, that was then translated into languages specific to those communities. In some provinces many languages were spoken, and in these cases, SASSA would try to establish the predominant one. SASSA did not currently have its own internal translation services, but used staff who were proficient in that language. It would, over time, make formal translator appointments.

The Chairperson thanked and congratulated SASSA on the work done. She said that positive change had taken place and was visible.

National Development Agency (NDA) Strategic Plan 2012-17
Mr Malose Kekana,
Chairperson, National Development Agency Board, introduced the team from the National Development Agency (NDA).He outlined the vision, mission and values and strategic goals (see attached presentation for full details).

Mr Phumlani Zwane, Chief Financial Officer , NDA, presented the budget summary.

It was noted that the main mandate of the NDA was on Early Childhood Development (ECD), in light of the effects of poverty and it was also noted that food was a basic need. Inflation and rising food prices worsened the situation. The need to enable income generation in the poor communities was stressed and NDA aimed to facilitate a development of a normal relationship between the poor communities and the economy, so that the individuals in these communities were not totally reliant on grants. The aim, in capacity building, was to try to tap into skills found the communities. Often, those with skills migrated to the city.

The non-government organisations (NGOs) and Community Service Organisations (CSOs) should be strengthened.

The particular challenges of the NDA were highlighted. Lack of funding was a problem, but it aimed to overcome this by embarking on entrepreneurial activities, and had established the Project Management Unit for generation of income. At present, NDA relied largely on the state for funding. The capacity of service providers was weak. NDA had poor visibility, its organisational dynamic needed improvement and poor performance management and  poor relationships with the CSOs had to be addressed. It needed to leverage partnerships to eradicate poverty.

The strategic objectives included carrying out programmes to meet the development needs of poor communities, undertaking research and publications aimed at providing the basis for development policy, strengthening institutional capacity of civil society organisations, promoting and maintaining its own organisational excellence and sustainability, and promoting debate, dialogue and sharing of development experience.

The NDA had a budget of R75 million. Of this, it had allocated R22.4 million to ECD, and R22.4 million to food security. It then allocated R10 million to income generation and R4.2 million to capacity building.

NDA estimated that the amount of revenue from the Project Management Unit (PMU) could be R3 million in 2013/14, rising to R6 million and R10 million in the following two financial years.

Administration costs had been reduced as a result of restructuring, and she set out the relevant ratios for the mandate and administration, pointing out that the administrative cost had decreased by 5%. The aim was to have 75% spent on the mandate and 25% on administration.

The NDA aimed to play a significant part in government’s social development projects, and was restructuring its office to be more accessible to the public. It envisioned itself not only as provider of funds, but also as an agency whom the public could approach for other resources. The Board intended to institute bi-monthly meetings, to track the work more carefully, and to achieve greater accountability.

Discussion
Mr Waters said that little seemed to have changed over the last years. He commented that the priority of Early Childhood Development (ECD) was one that had to be dealt with by the DSD. Furthermore, the issue of food security fells in the domain of the Department of Agriculture, income generation should be addressed in the DSD, and capacity building should fall under either the Department of Trade and Industry, or Department of Agriculture.

Mr Waters was very concerned that 49% - almost half – of the budget of NDA went to paying administration and staff costs, and he believed that this money should be used far more efficiently. These figures suggested that NDA had become similar to an employment agency, instead of alleviating poverty. He asked if it would not be cheaper to outsource the recruitment of staff. There need to be evaluations as to how effective NDA had  been in the projects that it had funded. He was also concerned at the figure of R2 million set aside for bonuses, and noted that the estimates of 2016/17 listed over R1 million in bonuses. He asked how these figures were determined, how NDA determined who would receive bonuses, and how they were allocated, how NDA was held to account on them, and who ensured that bonuses were paid out.

The NDA representative said that National Treasury had cut the budget of the NDA, and this changed the percentages that were allocated to each of the programmes. There were fixed costs that had to be paid, in respect of administration. NDA planned to deal with the problem of lower funding by working on improving its income. It had also had commissioned a study to evaluate the effectiveness of the NDA as perceived by the public.

The allocation of bonuses would be done using a production or performance management system and procedures. Employees would be rewarded according to the level of work done. The board was working on the basis of contracts with management and thus all were sensitive to and conscious of this issue, because of the type of communities targeted.

A Member asked about any strategies that would ensure housing for children, and whether any assistance was given on jobs.

A Member noted that projects that dealt with food security and capacity building often collapsed very early. Even though NDA had set strategies, the problem lay in the monitoring and outreach programmes, and for this reason wanted to know exactly how the funds were being used. NDA should set up some avenues for emerging farmers who needed information or access to other resources. The aim of the NDA was to eradicate poverty, but she wanted more specifics on how it intended to do this, and suggested a stronger focus on the practical, rather than theoretical, aspects.

The NDA representatives responded that there had been progress in tacking poverty. The NDA had become more effective in the last year, although it must be remembered that poverty and unemployment had grown in the last couple of years, which in a sense impacted upon whatever the NDA had managed to achieved. However, it would continue to do what it was mandated to do.

Mr Magagula asked the NDA to clarify income generation. He asked for an indication of the minimum number of projects in which NDA was involved, in all the provinces. He believed that the NDA was a vibrant and good agency, and urged it to proceed with the changes outlined. At the moment, it needed to be more creative and think out of the box.

The NDA representatives noted that income generation would be done by levying service fees in respect of every service rendered to a department or company.

Ms Mafolo commented on slide 4, saying that even the President had said that it was time that South African stopped blaming apartheid for the current situation, so the question was what steps were being taken to move forward.

The NDA representative argued that references to apartheid were still relevant in South Africa, and to stop talking about it would be to ignore the political realities. Apartheid was a legacy of South Africa that would take many years to eradicate. The NDA would continue to speak about apartheid similar to the way that Jewish people continued to speak about the Holocaust.

Ms Mafolo commented that the survey figures dated back to 2007 and there was a need to use more recent data, and asked what were the latest figures regarding the number of women and children without food.

Ms Mafolo wanted to know what NDA planned in regard to the  non-governmental organisations, and what plans it was taking to strengthen itself.

The NDA representatives responded that in the past, funding of and for the NGOs went directly to them, but later, international donors had expressed the view that there should be some sort of government involvement in such activities. The NDA supported and mobilised civil society, because government alone could not address and eradicate poverty. The Department of Trade and Industry focused on small business. The NDA focused on helping civil society small enterprise development in an informal manner. It would enable NGO and community organisations to get adequate support and with their strategies, as many were struggling. NDA tried to devise effective ways to work with these organisations so they could be more responsive to people needing help, in poor communities.

Ms Mafolo referred to page 9 of the previous presentation, and enquired what type of research was done, suggesting that more needed to be allocated to research, possibly from the amounts currently budgeted for the bonus.

The NDA representatives noted that the need for research had been acknowledged by the board. The NDA would begin by conducting a survey, and thereafter research was undertaken. The quality of the research would be monitored and evaluated. There would be more money spent on research for projects, and NDA would acknowledge any shortcomings, and not shy away from responsibilities.

Ms Mafolo wanted to know what infrastructure plans the NDA had, and what ECD Centres were already in place, noting that this information was needed for the Committee’s oversight.

Ms T Kenye (ANC) said that the NDA was a still a developing institution, and said that the work was linked to the DSD. Over the past three years, the work that it had done had to be monitored and evaluated. She sought information on the improved organisational structures.

The response from the NDA was that organisational development and the different aspects of the organisation would receive close scrutiny and the institutional capacity if the NDA would be addressed. The vacancies would also receive attention, and effective measures would be taken to reduce the vacancy rate, whilst the staff would also receive training.

Ms Kenye asked for further clarification and an explanation on the collapse of projects, and what had happened to the funding, saying that it was necessary to ensure that more of the projects continued, rather than falling by the wayside. She felt that food security, in particular, needed to receive more focus. The committee had been asking the NDA to provide information on its activities. NDA needed to look at the wellbeing on people on the ground.

The Chairperson noted complaints from the public that they were not able to get access to the funding available. She also was concerned about food security, asking if this issue rested only with NDA, as it surely was a matter of shared responsibility with other departments

In response to the various questions about food security, the NDA said that in poor communities it was aware that the people had very few alternatives. Thus, in the rural areas, farmers were encouraged to improve their yield and production in order for them to better support themselves and thus not rely so heavily on NDA. In relation to questions about the failure of projects, NDA noted that many failures arose from problems with the concept of implementation, or use of inappropriate methods. It would try to make sure that projects did not collapse or did not have to be recovered  in the future, and undertook to compile a report on any projects that had failed. In future, it would be improving the monitoring and evaluation, as well as procurement. There was a need to document the lessons of NDA and this would be done.

Another Member thought that the NDA could improve and resolve issues, and although she acknowledged that there might be shortage of funding, the Committee would try to assist the NDA. She asked if it was received assistance from other public or private entities.

The Chairperson said that the NDA should highlight what challenges it was facing in its project and whether it had a strategy in place to deal with such issues.

The Chairperson asked for more detail on the strategy for children, saying that she believed the strategy for children was the ECD. She asked how this was run in remote areas, and what its plans were to improve these areas.

The NDA representatives said that a management unit would be established to enhance the implementation of ECD, but the current strategy and ECD would remain in the meantime. In the future, to maximise the effectiveness of the projects, NDA would opt to focus on specific projects on
To summarise, the NDA representatives said they had noted the comment about the need to be more creative, and would be approaching the communities, to enable a greater versatility of approach. It would be engaging with communities and church leaders. Many of its current challenges had to do with language issues. There would be more research done in the rural areas so that NDA gained more understanding of the needs of the communities, rather than make assumptions about these needs, and this should enable it to reach the communities more effectively. By the next time it met with the Committee, it hoped to show remarkable improvement.

The meeting was adjourned.


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