Meeting SummaryThe Chief Executive Officer of the South African Social Security Agency noted key projects for improved service delivery which included the appointment of a service provider to effect payment of social grants in all provinces; the standardisation of the application process; and the improvement of local offices and pay-point infrastructure. Current challenges were that the system remained largely manual and lacked integration; vacancies, in particular in critical posts; and delivery of social service at local level. As of the end of March 2012, over 15.5 million South Africans were benefiting from social grants.
Automation of systems and the introduction of biometric enrolment through the Improved Grant Application System (IGAP) would enable checking of biometrical data with that at SARS, Home Affairs and other agencies, and reduce the risk of fraud. The aim was for SASSA to automate end-to-end solutions on one platform. SASSA aimed to perform electronic payments itself at the end of the five-year tender. SASSA would own the biometric data bank and perform quality checks using the information.
SASSA intended to develop a future payment model. An advisory committee was to be established towards the end of 2012 to produce a consultative document and research report on the topic.
The recruitment of Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers would support current staffing gaps. EPWP workers were to be provided with training and monitored. The National Department of Social Development had established a task team to come up with practical recommendations on how to resolve the high vacancy rates.
A priority was to upgrade the existing 216 local offices and 928 pay-points over a period of three years. This could be achieved through small works to improve the quality of service delivered.
Members asked how many foster child grant cases were backlogged and what SASSA’s plans were to clear the backlog of foster care grant cases, why potential candidates were not meeting the requirements necessary for posts, if SASSA had already started with the process of filling critical posts and how far it had progressed, and if the task team would be made up of staff from SASSA or external people.
Members also asked how much the reengineering would cost, how the SASSA smart card would correlate with the Home Affairs smart card system, how the number of people depending on grants could be reduced, and if programs were in place to encourage people to sustain themselves independently and not depend on the grant, and if the department had a plan to absorb EPWP workers after their training.
The Director General of the Department of Social Development then gave a response to findings of the Auditor General on the filling of vacancies in the Department of Social Development (DSD) and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). The numbers of vacancies nationally and provincially were listed, and the impact that this was making on the ability to deliver services was discussed. Strategies that some provinces were using for dealing with the vacancies, were explained.
Members asked how the Department was going to address
South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) Strategic Plan and Budget Vote 2012
Ms Virginia Petersen, SASSA Chief Executive Officer, outlined SASSA’s mandate, mission, vision and values, and gave a description of the structure of the agency.
SASSA had been consistent in the provision of monthly income support to a significant number of South Africans. As of the end of March 2012, over 15.5 million South Africans were benefiting from social grants. These were constituted of 10 927 731 people receiving child support; 2 750 857 receiving pensions; 1 198 131 people receiving a disability grant; 536 747 people receiving a foster care grant; 114 747 people receiving card dependency; and 753 people receiving a war veterans grant.
The Agency had over the last year intensified its efforts towards improving service delivery. These initiatives had included: the appointment of a service provider to effect payment of social grants in all provinces; the standardisation of the application process; and the improvement of local offices and pay-point infrastructure. In addition, the audit for the 2010/11 financial year identified exceptions in the grant administration which led to an audit qualification of the Department of Social Development (DSD). Significant progress had been made in addressing the Auditor General’s findings and the exceptions were reduced by more than 60% across the board.
Key priorities for 2012/13 – 2016/17 were to deliver quality social security services by focusing on excellent customer care; the automation of systems; improving organisational capacity; and promoting good governance. The strategic objectives for 2012/13 – 2016/17 were to ensure that eligible beneficiaries receive benefits due to them; to improve the quality of service delivery to customers; to achieve a fully integrated and automated social assistance service; and to ensure that the agency was optimally capacitated.
Ms Petersen then gave an overview of the objectives and targets of the various branches, including Grants Administration, Information and Communication Technology, Internal Audit and Risk Management, Strategy and Business Development, Corporate Services, Human Capital Management, Facilities, Communication and Marketing, and Finance.
The strategic objective of Grants Administration was to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the administration of the social assistance programme. The objective statements were to ensure that eligible beneficiaries receive their benefits timeously, to provide quality customer-centric services at all times, to provide strategic direction for the effective implementation of the social assistance programme.
The strategic objective of Information and Communication Technology was to achieve a fully integrated and automated social assistance service. This would include the development of a fully secured, integrated and automated end-to-end system by 2014/15, with the intention of completing 40% of the systems development by 2012/13. All grant officials and system users would be provided with workstations at points of service delivery and system users would be biometrically authenticated by the end of 2012/13 to eliminate the use password and fraud related activities, and grant beneficiary biometric system would be developed in 2012/13. The five internal grant administration systems were to be integrated, and there was to be a phased in interface with other government systems.
The strategic objective for Internal Audit and Risk Management was to promote good governance. This would entail providing independent assurance on the adequacy, effectiveness and efficiency of the management implemented controls, facilitating and monitoring the development and implementation of the risk management strategy, and entrenching a culture of integrity in the Agency.
The Strategy and Business Development strategic objective was to provide strategic direction for the effective implementation of the social assistance programme. This was to include compliance with the planning framework, service delivery monitoring and consolidated evaluation reports produced quarterly, social grant projection reports produced twice per annum, five institutional performance assessment reports produced and periodic and thematic evaluation and research reports.
SASSA intended to develop a future payment model for development. An advisory committee was to be established towards the end of 2012 to produce a consultative document and research report on the topic. Design options were to be developed and piloted in 2013 and 2014. Plans were also being considered for Business Process Reengineering (BPR). A review and restructuring for the finance branch was to be completed in 2012, and plans for reengineering the grant administration would commence in 2012.
The strategic objective of the corporate services was to ensure that the Agency was optimally capacitated for optimal service delivery. In order to achieve this the corporate services would endeavour to promote and ensure sound human capital management systems; to provide efficient and effective legal services to the Agency; to provide facilities and auxiliary support services that enable the Agency to function optimally; to promote security risk management practices in the Agency; to market, inform and educate internal and external stakeholders on the social assistance programme; and to provide effective, efficient and economical financial management service.
Human capital management’s objective was to fill critical posts, in particular level five to eight posts at the regions to ensure that there was sufficient and appropriately skilled human capital for improved and more efficient service delivery; to recruit Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers to support current staffing gaps; to implement HIV and AIDS support programmes in all regions and Head Office; and to conduct a review of the performance management system.
The first strategic objectives of the Facilities branch was to improve local offices and pay-points. 216 local offices and 928 pay-points were to be upgraded over a period of three years. The second strategic objective was to ensure that MIS registries were complying with targeted elements of the National Archives Act and directives and disposal guidelines for SASSA records approved in 2012/13.
The objectives of the Communication and Marketing branch were to implement the Integrated Marketing and Communication Strategy, and to conduct focused and targeted communication services to support the re-registration process.
The objectives with regard to finance were to comply with financial prescripts, such as the estimates on the National Expenditure document developed in accordance with National Treasury’s budget cycle. All eligible suppliers were to be paid within 30 day. Expenditure monitoring was to be implemented and compliance to procurement processes was to be ensured. The percentage of social assistance debts recovered was to be recovered, and 50% of staff debts were to be recovered.
Ms Petersen moved on to the finance plan. The Agency received its administration budget transfers from the Department of Social Development and the transfers in respect of the grants were managed through the Department. The total allocation for Administration started at R6.2 billion in 2012/13 and increased to R6.8 billion in 2014/15. The bulk of the administration budget went towards payments to cash contractors who were contracted to the Agency to disburse grant monies to beneficiaries. The second largest allocation on the budget was on personnel expenditure while the remaining balance catered for other operational expenses, which included various contractual obligations.
The key budgeted priorities were the compensation of employees; the cash payment of contractor fees; the grants process automation; media campaigns; the improvement of local offices and pay point infrastructure; grant fraud investigations; bulk notification; medical assessment fees; ICT infrastructure deployment; and various contracts necessary for the running of the Agency, such as the leasing of office accommodation.
Auditor General findings: response by Department of Social Development (DSD) & SASSA
Mr Vusi Madonsela, DSD Director General, introduced the response to the findings of the Auditor General. He explained that an effort had been made to gather information that would reflect the situation on a national and provincial level. Peter Ne
Mr Deven Chinnappan from Human Resources Management in DSD explained the key functions linked to Social Development programmes. He cautioned that the data being presented was compiled from Vulindlela (the consolidated government HR information system) and therefore may not be completely up to date or accurate. Information was also taken from the provinces, and in places was incomplete.
Mr Chinnappan gave a summary of the vacancies in the National and Provincial Departments of Social Development. In total there were 4 868 vacancies, including vacancies in corporate support, social work, community development, and child and youth care workers. The numbers of vacancies were also given for each province. The worst affected were
He went on to discuss the impact of vacancies in national and provincial Departments of Social Development. In the national department the recorded 6% vacancy rate was due to high staff turn-over. The impact of this was felt on budget plans. The main point of concern was the filling of Community Development posts (27% vacancy rate). The department experienced challenges in attracting suitable candidates due to the set post requirements and limited community development specific qualifications.
He then spoke about the impact of vacancies in provincial Departments of Social Development on service provision and achievement and strategic objectives. The impact varied from one province to another. The impact was minimal where contract employees had been appointed to render the services required, for example, in the
It was of particular concern that in Limpopo, due to budgetary constraints, the Department was unable to absorb social worker bursary holders who had already signed contracts with the Department. In the
The impact of vacancies in SASSA on service provision and achievement of strategic objectives and mandate included high volumes of intake applications becoming unmanageable; beneficiaries spending long hours in queues; prospective beneficiaries being turned away; and the quality of work being compromised due to work pressures.
The National and Provincial Departments of Social Development identified the following strategies to be implemented with a view to addressing the high vacancy rates: the National Department had established a task team to come up with practical recommendations, the National Human Resource Forum had been established to deal with the issues of Persal clean up and recruitment and retention strategies, some of the Provincial Departments were in the process of aligning their organisational structures to the approved generic functional structure, the National Department had improved the recruitment and selection process, and the progress on the implementation of the above was to be made at the meeting of the heads of the Social Development Sector and MinMEC on a quarterly basis.
The SASSA strategies to be implemented included an integrated critical posts exercise which factored service delivery needs, beneficiary numbers versus staff required and the prevailing financial constraints, which were further exacerbated by the deficit that the Agency had to address. The Agency embarked on the initiative to have the business operations standardised. This was after time and motion studies were conducted leading to the development of a Capacity Model for all local offices. This capacity model was to be aligned to the Human Resource plan and utilised as an attachment to the budget bid.
Despite it being included in the presentation, Mr Chinnappan did not discuss the monitoring and evaluation of funded NPOs in the DSD sector due to time restraints.
In conclusion, Mr Chinnappan remarked that the general assessment was that there were challenges with regard to the recruitment and filling of Community Development posts at both national and provincial level. Therefore there was an urgent need to accelerate the implementation of the plans to professionalise the CDP occupation, and to develop and implement the recruitment and retention strategy to sustain the efforts currently being made. The funding constraints which were largely due to austerity measures and associated budget cuts had placed a constraint on the capacity of Provincial Departments to absorb new social work graduates. Other government departments falling outside the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council (PHSDSBC) were recruiting social workers on the basis of higher remuneration packages, outside the scope of the Collective Agreement on OSD for Social Service professions. The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) were to consider extending the Collective Agreement to all Government Departments employing social workers and community development practitioners.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Chinnappan for the presentation
The Department commented that the organisational establishments very often had no relationship to the extent of the challenges they had to respond to. The primary consideration was the money available for the post, which had no relationship to the challenges that must be responded to. Vacancy rate must be viewed bearing in mind the ratio of social workers to beneficiary population. This was something that the Committee needed to be aware of while discussing the issue, as the gap between what you would like to have and what you could have was generally very large, and that was largely due to the budget. Budget cuts over the last few years had limited the ability to respond to challenges. In many cases posts would be needed but if there were no funds to pay for the post then it would not have not been created and reflected in the presentation as a vacancy.
Ms M Boroto (ANC,
Mr Madonsela responded that the posts being referred to were not entry level posts, but manager level posts. Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) had introduced required years of service before people could move up, and it often proved difficult to find people with enough years of experience. There had been a call that there should be a revision to the OSD but there was concern that this could open up a whole renegotiation about the OSD.
Mr M De Villiers (DA,
Ms Petersen responded that SASSA would not put out a full tender or employ an agency to give advice as SASSA knew from where weaknesses were emanating.
Mr De Villiers asked how the SASSA smart card would correlate with the Home Affairs smart card system.
Ms Petersen responded that Home Affairs was still in the embryonic phase, and it would take another three years for them to implement it. SASSA was in constant conversation with Home Affairs to see if information that would be useful to them could be included on the SASSA smart card magnetic strip.
Mr De Villiers asked how many foster child grant cases were backlogged.
The Chairperson asked for clarification on the plans to clear the backlog of foster care grant cases, especially as this was a problem which involved other bodies such as the Department of Justice and other departments.
Ms Petersen responded that 500 000 children were on the database. There had been a piece of work under development from the Director General (DG) with consultation with the provinces to try and catch up with the court order. The court ruling gave a time frame up to 2013, prior to that there were about 20 000 cases which had now been added to the cases being currently worked on in the Department.
Mr Madonsela responded that the DG had a comprehensive plan to respond to the backlog in foster care, which involved working very closely with the Department of Justice. The problem could be tackled on two fronts. On the first front, the ability of social workers to make the necessary visits was compromised by their vast caseload. Retired social workers had been used to assist in this area. The
Mr De Villiers asked if SASSA had already started with the process of filling critical posts and how far it had progressed. SASSA had a high vacancy rate and he asked how this was to be addressed and what the time frame for that was.
Ms Petersen responded that SASSA currently had 8 437 posts, but 10 998 posts were needed to deal with the work more effectively. SASSA did not have the financial resources to do that immediately, so it was planned to do that over the next two years.
Mr De Villiers thanked the DG for the presentation. He asked why there was information missing on the impact of vacancies.
Mr Madonsela responded that the data that the DG was able to provide depended largely on Vulindlela where provinces had not provided information on vacancies. Those provinces that did not provide information on vacancies or the impact, had been obtained from Vulindlela. The DG was not well placed to tell what the impact was, this information needed to come from the provinces. He undertook to send on information to the Committee if it came from the provinces. This information was not given as a matter of course, but was specifically requested for the presentation.
Mr De Villiers asked if the DG had any information from the Department of Social Development in the
Mr Madonsela responded that the DG depended on accuracy of the information itself from province and Vulindlela, and one cannot guarantee that information being provided from provinces was correct. The
Ms Makgate (
Ms Petersen responded that in many instances it was only small works that need to be done, such as broken windows or doors, this was done by SASSA as part of their social responsibility investment into communities. The objective was not to build halls, but where SASSA had been operating in the open, structures had been erected for protection against the elements, and chairs, borehole water and ablution facilities were provided. A decline had been noticed in people using pay points since monies could be collected sooner and more conveniently at ATMs and points of sale (supermarkets and so on). This was to be monitored.
Ms Makgate (
Ms Petersen responded that SASSA did use state agents such as Crime Intelligence, however primary investigation had to be performed by SASSA before evidence could be taken to state agents for further processing.
Ms Makgate (
Mr Madonsela responded that senior managers were employed in the task team. This would not jeopardise the work that they were originally employed to do, as the job descriptions of senior managers were quite general, and everything that affects their work was part of their job description. Sitting on a task team of this nature therefore could be seen as within the requirements of their job.
A member asked how the number of people depending on grants could be reduced, and if programmes were in place to encourage people to sustain themselves independently and not depend on the grant.
Ms Petersen responded that the grant system was there as a safety net for the unemployed. Gainful employment was required in order to enable people to leave the system. Some pilot projects had been run which attempted to give beneficiaries some direction about what training or work they could do. Research was underway to see what projects could be launched to provide internships or work.
A member asked about appeals tribunal decisions, whether many were needed and which regions in particular needed them.
Ms Petersen responded that the appeals tribunal had managed to clear their backlog, but this had put pressure on SASSA to implement the decisions. The appeals had dropped immensely because internal reviews were happening at SASSA. They aimed to turn the decisions into action immediately, as delays caused big backlog payments.
A member expressed concern about recruiting Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers, and asked if a monitoring system was in place to ensure that they were doing the work that the Department expected.
The Chairperson asked if the department had a plan to absorb EPWP workers after their training.
Ms Petersen responded that EPWP workers were being given real work with training. EPWP does work if given specific training and monitoring was essential. Young people must be given an experience of the work environment, and also the confidence to operate in that environment.
The Chairperson referred to
Mr Madonsela responded that
Ms Makgate (
Mr Madonsela accepted the point, but emphasised that task teams were short-term initiatives intended to create an interdisciplinary team were issues could be looked at from a different perspective. He added that external processes would take a long time.
Ms Makgate expressed her concern that the DG had no reliable account of the impact that vacancies were making in the provinces. For example, she felt that the
Mr De Villiers noted that post offices that were used as pay points often had long queues, and asked if there was any provision made for the comfort of people waiting there.
Ms Petersen responded that SASSA worked closely with post offices to ensure this.
The Chairperson thanked SASSA and the DG for the information, which would assist the Committee with their oversight of the provinces.
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.