The Department of Social Development (DSD) briefed the Committee on its budget vote and strategic plan, which were drawn in the context of the broader issues highlighted by the National Development Plan (NDP) and sought to address the cycle of poverty and unemployment in South Africa. Its medium term strategic goals were to reduce income poverty by providing social assistance to eligible individuals; increase household food and nutrition security; improve service delivery by standardising the quality of social welfare services; prevent new HIV infections, address the structural and social drivers of HIV and tuberculosis (TB), and mitigate the impact of those diseases; create an enabling and conductive environment within which NPOs could operate; improve the quality of and access to ECD services; strengthen child protection services through the implementation of child care and protection measures; reduce the demand for illegal and addictive substances within communities; facilitate social change and sustainable development, targeting youths and adults in their communities; create an enabling environment for the protection and promotion of older persons’ rights and people with disabilities; and strengthen families by providing comprehensive social services. A few of these many goal had been highlighted as particular strategic priorities, consistent with the government’s apex priorities. These were to improve the provision of ECD, strengthen child care and protection, as well as youth development, combat substance abuse, promote and protect older persons and people with disabilities, and food and nutrition security. The strategic objectives for each of the Department’s five programmes were detailed, with some key projects outlined.
The 2013/14 MTEF allocation was R12.4 billion, a reduction from the R12.9 billion in the previous year. Adjustments had been made for efficiency savings, and many sub-programmes had seen reductions in their budgets, with particular savings in goods and services. Allocations to the National Development Agency, South African Social Security Agency and Social Assistance Grants had been reduced.
The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) then briefed the Committee on its key strategic programmes, providing a broad overview of the strategic plan for 2013/14 to 2016/17, highlighting priority areas and the budget allocation. In 2013, SASSA would concentrate on implementation of the social assistance programme, improve the management of Social Relief of Distress (SRD), continue with re-registration, grant reviews, local office and service points improvements, physical infrastructure improvement, and finalise the future payment system. The objective of the organisational review was to make SASSA more effective, to increase its operational efficiency, and create a more streamlined and effective structure. The SASSA budget for 2013/14 was R6.3 billion, rising to R6.8 billion over the next two years, and the individual allocations were also detailed. The key priorities and cost drivers included compensation of employees, cash payment contractors’ fees and various contracts necessary for the running of the Agency. SASSA would also be focusing on the grant review backlog, improvement of local offices and pay point infrastructure, grant fraud investigations, bulk notification and communication and media campaigns.
Members asked if there was an informative study on child trafficking, saying the extent of the problem needed to be known. Several commented on the monitoring and assistance processes for non-profit organisations, and the DSD emphasised that they were vital to its work. Members were concerned that NPOs and private individuals running ECD services were not being supported by municipalities, expressed concern at brutalities against women in some communities, and questioned the work, monitoring and support to loveLife, saying that its programmes were not visible enough, although the DSD assured Members that it had contributed to reduction of HIV infection rates and had much success in working with the youth. Members also wanted to know what was being done to aid youth empowerment, how DSD was working with Department of Education and the Department of Health, how many social work graduates were being employed, and what was being done to see that they were absorbed into the provinces. The Committee also requested a separate presentation on the Isibindi Model. In relation to SASSA, Members raised concerns also on the re-registration process and difficulties in getting payment, the position of volunteer committees who were sometimes abusing their position, the challenges of security at paypoints, the continuing poor attitudes of some SASSA staff, the reports that some retailers were charging a fee to pay out grants, and about corruption, fraud and easy access to the pay points by loan sharks. They questioned the move to the new card systems and highlighted some problems reported. They also asked when SASSA would take back the core function of making payments with in-house staff.
2013 Budget Vote and Strategic Plan: Department of Social Development briefing
The delegation from Department of Social Development (DSD or the Department), was led by Mr Vusi Madonsela, Director-General.
Mr Peter Netshipale, Acting Deputy Director-General, Department of Social Development, presented the first part of the presentation which focused on performance. He explained that a situational analysis would show that poverty remained the key issue, mainly affecting children, youth and women. Unemployment was a challenge for the young people of South Africa, as the youth were at risk of becoming unemployable and falling into a cycle of poverty. There was a burden on older persons who would have to absorb the shocks coming from the economy. The Department had an obligation to support these people.
The context of the strategic plan was also located within the broader issues highlighted by the National Development Plan (NDP). The NDP focused on poverty and inequality. It indicated that there were too few jobs, a resource-intensive economy, crumbling infrastructure, poor education, a high disease burden, poor service delivery, and corruption. The Department and the private sector needed to focus on creating jobs, expanding social infrastructure, and transforming work spaces, and it would, throughout this presentation, respond to issues raised in the NDP.
The NDP made several proposals that were of particular relevance for the Department of Social Development. It stated that income through employment and social security was critical for improving living standards. This could be achieved through the determination of a minimum social floor below which no household should live. The NDP called for the creation of an inclusive social protection system and entrenchment of a social security system that protected working people, and social assistance for the poor and other vulnerable groups such as children, the aged and people with disabilities. The NDP also called for universal access for at least two years of Early Childhood Development (ECD). Nutrition intervention was needed for pregnant women and young children.
There was a need to strengthen youth service programmes and to introduce programmes that facilitated access to life-skills, training and entrepreneurship. The NDP also proposed the expansion of learnerships and the provision of training vouchers directly to job-seekers.
Given these factors the Department had set the following medium term strategic goals.
- Reduce income poverty by providing social assistance to eligible individuals
- Increase household food and nutrition security
- Improve service delivery by standardising the quality of social welfare services
- Prevent new HIV infections, address the structural and social drivers of HIV and tuberculosis (TB), and mitigate the impact of those diseases
- Create an enabling and conductive environment within which Non Profit Organisations (NPOs) could operate
-Improve the quality of and access to ECD services
- Strengthen child protection services through the implementation of child care and protection measures
- Reduce the demand for illegal and addictive substances within communities
- Facilitate social change and sustainable development, targeting youths and adults in their communities
- Create an enabling environment for the protection and promotion of older persons’ rights and those of people with disabilities
- Strengthen families by providing comprehensive social services.
Out of these many goals, a few had been lifted up as strategic priorities. These were consistent with the government’s apex priorities. These were to improve the provision of ECD, strengthen child care and protection, as well as youth development , combat substance abuse, promote and protect older persons and people with disabilities, and provide food and nutrition security. Social security, including job creation, remained a key catalyst to DSD priorities. NPO support, infrastructure development, customer care and appropriate service delivery model were key service enablers.
The performance of each of the Department’s five programmes was assessed.
Programme One: Administration
The high-level outputs, performance indicators, baselines and medium term targets were detailed in the accompanying document. The strategic objectives for strategic, risk and business processes were to improve the social development sector planning processes by March 2015; to transform the social infrastructure portfolio in support of service delivery; and to facilitate the participation, empowerment and inclusion of DSD customers in the DSD value proposition.
DSD aimed to improve its communication and public access to DSD information and services. This would be achieved by creating an online presence, engaging in proactive media engagements, public liaison activities, marketing and advertising. It would align the corporate identity of national and provincial departments and a brand reputation survey would be conducted. Another objective was to improve and sustain employee engagement with DSD activities. This would be achieved by publishing a DSD newsletter.
Another goal was effective oversight of public entities reporting to the DSD. This would involve the implementation of the public entities oversight and management strategy, as well as a performance scorecard for public entities. A performance information management system (PIMS) for public entities was to be introduced.
The strategic objective for monitoring and evaluation was to ensure effective monitoring and evaluation in the social development sector by 2015. This would involve effective monitoring and evaluation systems for the social development sector, monitoring reports were to be produced and disseminated, and a multi-year evaluation plan and strategy for the development sector was to be developed.
Programme Two: Social Assistance
The Department aimed to reduce poverty by providing income support to eligible individuals. The high level output for this was that social grants would be paid out to eligible individuals. In 2013/14 the total number of beneficiaries of the old age grant was 2 930 177. 477 people received the war veterans payout; 11 698 536 received the child support grant; 1 179 852 received the disability grant; 135 347 received the care dependency payout; 569 314 received the foster care grant; and 71 879 received the grant-in-aid.
In looking at trends in performance and expenditure, it became clear that the child support and older person’s grants made up the bulk of expenditure on this programme, and reflected the government’s commitment to support the most vulnerable members of society, namely children, the elderly and the disabled. The number of social grant beneficiaries increased from 15.2 million in March to more than 15.9 million at 31 December 2012, and was projected to increase to about 17.2 million by the end of March 2016. Spending increased significantly from 2009/10 to 2012/13, mainly due to the extension of the age limit for the child support grant to 18 years, and the equalisation of access to the older person’s grant at 60 years. In 2011/12, the asset and income threshold for the older person’s grant was increased as part of a broader social security reform process. Greater awareness was being generated on the grant-in-aid and care dependency grant, and expenditure was therefore projected to increase over the current Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period.
Programme Three: Social Security Policy and Administration
The strategic objectives regarding social security policy development were to create an effective and efficient social security system and to provide uniform and coherent information on social expenditure. In relation to appeals adjudication, the objective was to provide all applicants for, and beneficiaries of, social assistance with access to internal remedies. The final strategic objective was to establish an inspectorate for social security, to ensure the integrity of the social assistance framework and systems, by March 2016.
The performance and expenditure trends showed that expenditure on appeals adjudication would also increase as the number of appeals adjudicated within 90 days was increased to 65% in 2015/16. The projected growth in expenditure on this programme over the MTEF period provided for the development of an integrated appeals business information system.
Programme Four: Welfare Services Policy Development and Implementation Support
The strategic objectives related to service standards were to improve the delivery of social welfare services; to develop a regulatory framework for social service practitioners by March 2016; and to introduce an effective regulatory system for funded NPOs. The Department intended to create an enabling environment for the protection and promotion of rights of older persons, and to promote and protect the rights of people with disabilities. Objectives related to children were to improve the quality of Early Childhood Development (ECD) services by 2015, strengthen child protection services through the implementation of child care and protection measures by 2015, and protect and improve the quality of life of orphaned and other vulnerable children through the Isibindi Model. Another objective was to strengthen families by providing comprehensive social services.
With regard to substance abuse, the Department intended to reduce the demand for substances in communities by providing prevention and treatment services. This would include the implementation of the National Anti-Substance Abuse programme of action, and the implementation of the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse Act No. 70 of 2008.
Social crime prevention and victim empowerment was a priority, and its strategic objectives were to reduce the incidence of social crime through programmes, policies and legislation, by March 2016; to improve victim empowerment services through programmes, policies and legislation by March 2016; and to improve interdepartmental coordination within the Victim Empowerment Programme sector. In line with this, the Department was working on a Draft Bill on Victim Empowerment Support Services.
The objectives for youth were to empower youths for sustainable development and social change, through youth development programmes, youth skills development and youth forums. Objectives in response to HIV and AIDS were to develop and facilitate implementation of social and behaviour change programmes; to mitigate the psycho-social impact of HIV, AIDS and TB on targeted key populations; and finally, to strengthen community-based systems.
Performance and expenditure trends for this programme showed that most funds would continue to be disbursed to loveLife, enabling it to increase and extend its HIV/ AIDS awareness programmes, and on scholarship for social work students. By 2015/16, the number of students benefiting from these scholarships was expected to reach 6 550. From 2009/10 to 2012/13, expenditure on social crime prevention and victim empowerment increased significantly in order to provide for the implementation of the Child Justice Act (2009). Similarly, expenditure on the substance abuse sub programme increased in 2011/12 and 2012/13. This was in order to provide for the development of regulation under the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse Act (2008). Expenditure on goods and services increased substantially in 2011/12 and 2012/13, mainly due to additional allocations for an ECD audit and the establishment of system to facilitate the rollout of the Isibindi Model.
Programme Five: Social Policy and Integrated Service Delivery
The strategic objectives for special projects and innovation were to increase job opportunities, skills and income levels in the Social Development Sector; to promote community driven development; and to provide social protection to military veterans. The main strategic objective for the registration and monitoring of non-profit organisations was to create an enabling environment for NPOs through an efficient registration system and regulatory framework and improved governance. Objectives related to community development were to support and monitor the implementation of community development services and programmes; to create an enabling environment for community development practice; and to facilitate and monitor the implementation of food security programmes.
Most spending on this programme in the current MTEF period would comprise transfers to the National Development Agency (NDA), which was meant to support civil society organisations. Spending on community development would also increase significantly due to an additional allocation of R120 million to FoodBank South Africa, aimed at strengthening the Food for All programme. The programme was targeted to cover 3 million people experiencing food insecurity by 2015/16. The NPO summit and dialogues held in 2012/13 resulted in increased expenditure on goods and services items such as catering, venues, and advertising, as well as increased spending on the registration and monitoring of NPOs in 2012/13.
Financial Outlook over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework
Mr Johnny Modiba, Acting Chief Financial Officer, Department of Social Development, presented the financial outlook over the MTEF, first from a national perspective and then from a provincial perspective.
The 2012 MTEF allocation for 2013/14 was R12.9 billion, which had been reduced to R12.4 billion in 2013. Additional funds had been allocated to the baseline for improvement in conditions of service, social grants, and FoodBank South Africa. Further adjustments had been made for efficiency savings. For example, savings were made in goods and services. Allocations to the NDA, South African Social Security Agency (SASSA or the Agency) and Social Assistance Grants had been reduced.
The allocation per sub-programme illustrated the efficiency savings more clearly. Reductions were seen in sub-programmes such as substance abuse, older persons, and children. There was a reduction in the amount allocated to the registration of NPOs, because the previous year a summit had been held which had involved extra expenditure. Community development had seen a big increase, because of the Food for All programme.
In terms of the provincial DSD perspective, there had been a large increase in the amount allocated to the provinces. The adjusted appropriation in 2013/13, for all the provinces, was R12.2 billion. The medium-term estimate for 2013/14 was R13.9 billion. The allocation per programme showed that most programmes had experienced a normal inflation increase. There was a jump in social welfare services because of the special allocation for the absorption of social work graduates.
The budget allocation for goods and services increased, from R1.728 million in 2009/10 to R2.261 million in the 2015/16 financial year. The annual average increase in goods and services was 4.8%. The main reason for the slow growth was the decision by Cabinet to reduce baseline allocations such as travel and accommodation, consultancies, hiring of venues, and telephone costs over the MTEF period.
The total budget for transfers and subsidies over the MTEF had grown significantly from R3.543 billion in the 2009/10 financial year to R6.431 billion in the 2015/16 financial year. The annual average increase in transfers and subsidies was 10.71%. Factors contributing to the growth included policy changes that had an impact on the provision of Social Welfare Services and National Priorities. The increase in expenditure was attributed to the implementation of Social Welfare legislation such as the Children’s Act and Older Person’s Act.
Key Strategic Programmes and Budget: Briefing by the South African Social Security Agency
Ms Virginia Petersen, Chief Executive Officer, South African Social Security Agency, briefed the Committee on SASSA’s key strategic programmes. The presentation provided the Committee with a broad overview of the strategic plan for 2013/14 to 2016/17, highlighted priority areas for the Agency for 2013/14 and gave an overview of the budget allocation.
Key priorities for 2013/14 to 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
- to embark on a reform agenda aimed at improving service delivery and making people’s dealings with government easier, improving organisational efficiency by modernising processes, developing a new payment system, and diversification
Key Priority Projects for 2013
The first priority project was the implementation of the social assistance programme. The objective was to improve the reach to qualifying and eligible social assistance beneficiaries. Currently, over 16 069 007 people were benefiting from social grants. The take-up rates for new grants was an average of 1.2 million grants per annum. There was an attrition rate of at least 500 000 beneficiaries per annum due to death, reviews and voluntary cancellations. The target was to reach at least 1.2 million beneficiaries, and to increase the number of grants in payment to 16 513 702.
A further objective was to improve the management of Social Relief of Distress (SRD) by ensuring qualifying beneficiaries were not disadvantaged. Training and workshops would be held to ensure there was a common understanding and interpretation of undue hardship. 25 000 SRD applications would be processed each year over the next three years. Priority would be given to children suffering from malnutrition, families where the breadwinner died, assisting in disaster situations, and individuals awaiting grants.
The objective of re-registration was to establish a credible national payment database. At the time, over 19 million people had been re-registered. Planned activities involved the completion of re-registration by April 2013. Re-registration data clean-up would involve data matching with critical institutions and elimination of duplications. Records management involved the filling of loose correspondence relating to documents collected during the re-registration process.
The objective for grant reviews was to eliminate the backlog of reviews, which were largely medical and financial. Eliminating the backlog would involve notification to each beneficiary to comply with legislative requirements. The plan was to have dedicated review venues, similar to re-registration venues, to manage overcrowding in local offices. Home visits would be conducted. There would be carry over into the 2014/15 financial years, because of the cycle time for reviews. While backlog reviews were being attended to, current reviews must be dealt with, to prevent further development of backlogs.
The objective for the improvement of local office and service points was to improve the conditions under which SASSA served the beneficiaries and to ensure that all customers experienced the same business processes. The project started in July 2011. 92 offices were upgraded in 2011/12. An additional 72 would be completed by the end of March 2013. All service offices had adopted a four-step application process.
Physical infrastructure improvement was planned. The upgrade of local offices would be completed in 2015. The target for 2013 was to have 119 facilities upgraded to suit the new standardised application process, to achieve full capacitation of service offices, and to improve accessibility of services and offices.
The organisational review objective was to make SASSA more effective through increased operational efficiency and the creation of a more streamlined and effective organisational structure. SASSA’s current structure was temporary, as functions were duplicated between head office, regional offices and district offices. Each branch had conducted a preliminary diagnosis and micro-audit of their functional areas and had made proposals on the possible areas for change. Quick-win changes were being implemented. Independent consultants would be appointed to work with the Agency, focusing on the review proposals, and would ensure that proposals were aligned to the vision of the Agency and resulted in optimum utilisation of staff.
The objective for the future payment system was for SASSA to implement its full mandate of administering, managing and paying social grants. Currently, the establishment of the National Payment Database (NPD) was being finalised. Current SASSA cards had transformed the industry by ensuring more people who were previously unbanked were integrated into the mainstream economy. SASSA was exploring alternative options in case the pending matter in court was not decided in its favour, and an Advisory Committee was being established to support SASSA in investigating future payment options. SASSA was to host an international round table workshop on payment in the 3rd quarter.
To improve organisational efficiency, SASSA was committed to the optimum utilisation of staff and it was striving to achieve a clean audit by 2015. The Agency was working towards full automation of its processes. This would include biometrics for access to SASSA core business systems, investigating the single platform, and strengthening SASSA’s internal capacity to drive Information Communication Technology (ICT) operations. In terms of financial management, the objective was to improve turn around for payment providers, manage grant debtors, and eliminate austerity measures in so far as they impacted service delivery.
Other initiatives to be addressed by SASSA included tackling inter-generational poverty, intensifying outreach programmes to communities, exploring measures to build SASSA’s future workforce, and conducting research to ensure that missing children were located. SASSA also intended to strengthen its partnerships, particularly with the Department of Education, Early Childhood Development (ECD) in the provinces, and the Department of Health.
SASSA’s financial plan
SASSA’s approved budget for 2013/14 was R6.3 billion, rising in 2014/2015 to R6.5 billion and in 2015/16 to R6.8 billion. For 2013/14, compensation of employees was budgeted at R2.3 billion, goods and services was budgeted at R3.8 billion, and transfers and subsidies was budgeted at R23 million.
The MTEF budget appropriation grew by 3%, 4% and 4% respectively over the MTEF period. The National Treasury had reduced the 2013/14 baseline by an amount of R215.324 million, from R6.53 billion to R6.31 billion. This reduced appropriation would have a negative impact on SASSA’s budget and would necessitate trade-offs and reprioritisation.
Budgeted key priorities and cost drivers included compensation of employees, cash payment contractors’ fees, and various contracts necessary for the running of the Agency. Other key cost drivers included the grant review backlog, improvement of local offices and pay point infrastructure, grant fraud investigations, bulk notification and communication and media campaigns.
Key Strategic Challenges
Policy implementation involved the challenges of foster care, SASSA’s role in disaster management, SRD and interpretations of undue hardships, and the 2 million children qualifying for grants who were missing from the system. The ongoing payment tender court case was extremely time-consuming. The conditions of some of SASSA’s offices and pay points, especially in rural areas, were unacceptable. Some processes could be improved for better efficiency, such as partial standardisation of business processes. There was an inequitable distribution of resources, particularly at points of service delivery. Social grant fraud and labour relations also posed challenges.
Ms M Boroto (ANC, Mpumalanga) assured the entities of the Committee’s support. She noted that the DSD’s presentation had referred to creating an enabling environment for NPOs. NPOs were registered at a national level, but she questioned who monitored whether they were being assisted at a local level. There were many that were registered but were not getting the assistance they needed.
Mr Netshipale responded that all social service NPOs that were registered needed to be funded to render services on the ground. The funding was found in the provincial government’s budget. The problem was that there had been a mushrooming of NPOs, and it was difficult to fund them all.
Ms Boroto said, in regard to the need for improvement of ECD, that in her constituency there were many informal crèches being run from people’s homes, which were doing a good job but were not being assisted by municipalities. They did not have sites, and municipalities were slow to allocate them.
Ms Constance Nxumalo, Deputy Director-General: Welfare Services, DSD, responded that the Department was about to finalise a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) to ensure a working relationship and finalise land allocations. The Department nonetheless encouraged people to set up mobile play groups and focus on non-centre based programmes.
Ms Boroto noted that most people in the rural areas did not understand foster care, especially that of orphaned children, and enquired how they could be educated on this point.
Ms Nxumalo acknowledged that this was a challenge and that the Department should improve its educational campaigns.
Ms Boroto was concerned that the areas where there had been reductions in the allocation of funds seemed to be the very ones that needed more money - for example, the social workers scholarships. The low numbers of social workers were hindering progress in the DSD.
Ms Boroto was concerned by the so-called “volunteer committees” that operated at pay points. She asked who was training these people since they were supposed to do work to assist in queue-management, but some of them were acting incorrectly, even extorting money from people waiting in the queues.
Mr Frank Earl, Acting Executive Manager: Grants Administration, SASSA, responded that SASSA had guidelines for the conduct of volunteer committees, but accepted that this was a challenge. Much as SASA wished the committees did not have to function, they were doing good work in the communities. SASSA would be monitoring this in the future.
Ms Boroto congratulated Ms Petersen on being so readily available for consultation with the Committee.
Ms B Mncube (ANC, Gauteng) said that communities in Freedom Park and Joe Slovo Park in Gauteng were experiencing brutal rapes and murders. Women coming from work were being raped, killed and their bodies dumped in the open. The absence of facilities for recreation in these areas contributed to high levels of drug abuse. The areas were known for their high crime rates, yet there was no police station in the vicinity.
Mr Madonsela said that Ms Mncube raised a critical issue. It was important to look at the root causes of violence against women and children, to examine the drivers, which were probably linked to issues of substance and alcohol abuse, although the extent of the violence suggested it went beyond that. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had done a study. Solutions that were being implemented included the creation of safe parks, clearing of bushes, and providing safe transport. This was no longer only a government concern, and all citizens should be concerned with this as it was a critical priority.
Ms Nxumalo added that the Department did have programmes to address this kind of violence. These programmes focused on three main areas: prevention and protection; response; and care and support. She agreed that more research was needed on the root causes of the problem.
Ms Mncube was concerned that some beneficiaries were charged R300 when they collected their grants from retailers.
Mr Earl responded that the R300 charge was not allowed. He asked any Members hearing such complaints to report them immediately to SASSA, who would investigate and discontinue their association with any vendors who were charging this fee.
Ms Mncube asked how far the process of re-registration had progressed.
Mr Earl responded that SASSA was meeting with the provinces to establish a “mop- up plan”. Every effort was being made to reach those whose applications were still outstanding.
Ms Mncube noted that in her presentation, Ms Petersen had noted that the number of children who were not registered must be reduced from the current 2 million, but asked what the target was, and whether SASSA was working with the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that all eligible children were registered.
Ms Mncube said she had received complaints from beneficiaries in Eldorado Park that the SASSA staff had a bad attitude, would cut short the number of people that they would see in a day, and send those who had not been seen to other SASSA offices.
Ms Rantho asked who the CDPs were, and what they did.
Mr Netshipale responded that CDP was the acronym for Community Development Practitioners. Similar to Community Development Workers, they dealt with household profiling, mobilising communities, and establishing structures in communities. There were not many of them country wide, as there were only 1 940 CDPs in all 9 provinces. The Department aimed to increase this. There was a need to harmonise CDPs and CDWs, so that they could do joint work.
Ms Rantho noted there was an allocation earmarked for 2013/14/15 for loveLife. She asked who was supposed to be monitoring the loveLife programmes, expressing her concern that this organisation was not in fact running programmes, and did not require an annual increase of its budget. She was not aware of any achievements from the loveLife programmes.
Mr Netshipale responded that loveLife was an organisation that the Department funded to work on HIV prevention. He assured Members that it was doing a wonderful job on the ground. Each province had an office. Its role was to address individual behavioural change problems and attitudes. The organisation was reaching a lot of young people, as it did a lot of work with schools, and focused on a range of issues, such as social change, structural change, and youth awareness of HIV/AIDS. The organisation had contributed to reduction of incidents of HIV/AIDS.
Mr Modiba added that an impact study on loveLife was under way.
Ms Rantho asked how many social work graduates were being employed and what was being done to see that they were absorbed into the provinces.
Ms Rantho raised concern about a case from the Albert Luthuli municipality in Mpumalanga, of a family who had been removed from the SASSA system and could not access their child support grant. She was concerned that there were many similar cases.
Ms Rantho asked who was monitoring the places where the food was being kept for the Social Relief of Distress Programme.
Ms Rantho asked much bad debt was there from the provinces, which provinces were affected, and whether, and how this challenge had been addressed.
Ms Rantho was concerned that people were going back to the pay points because the banks were shortchanging the clients.
Mr Earl responded that beneficiaries had tended to go to banks to get their money because they opened on the first day of the month. SASSA was now opening pay points on the same day.
Another representative added that SASSA was looking at the trend of beneficiaries using banks, and had to consider whether to continue to operate certain pay points.
Ms M Moshodi (ANC, Free State) said that in her view corruption, fraud and easy access to the pay points by loan sharks were some of the key challenges, yet the strategic plan of SASSA was silent on these issues, asking why there was no plan to address the challenges.
Ms Petersen responded that SASSA had met with the micro-lending industry to inform it that its members would no longer be able to take reductions from grants, and this was not received well.
Ms Moshodi said that a number of problems had been experienced by pensioners in the Eastern Cape when transferring to the new system, and asked how this had been addressed.
Ms Moshodi said that all government and public entities’ plans were supposed to be in line with NDP, and she asked how the strategic plan of SASSA was aligned.
Ms Moshodi noted that in a previous presentation SASSA had said that certain offices were prioritised for renovations, and called for a status report and whether the targets had been achieved.
A SASSA representative responded that accredited service providers had been appointed to help with the refurbishment, which was expected to increase the rate of progress. The target was to complete 119 offices in the current financial year.
Ms Moshodi said that the condition of the offices and pay points were identified as a key challenge, and asked what measures were in place to address this.
Mr M De Villiers (DA, Western Cape) asked how the social worker students with bursaries would be accommodated when they finished their studies.
Mr Modiba responded that the Minister had drafted letters to the MECs in provinces, asking for details on their plans to absorb social workers. This would be monitored by the Department.
Ms Nxumalo added that the Department had produced 6 082 social workers. Graduates were now finishing their degrees. Currently, 1 247 still had to be absorbed. R108 million had been set aside for that in the budget.
Mr De Villiers asked if the Department had had a discussion with other departments to try and address youth empowerment.
Mr Netshipale responded that the Department was working with other sectors of government on skills development for youth, education, further education and training (FET) colleges, youth centres and youth forums.
Mr De Villiers reported that in the Western Cape some beneficiaries were being turned away from SASSA offices because their identification documents (IDs) were torn. This was an unnecessary expense for beneficiaries, if the photograph and barcode were still intact, and he asked how SASSA ensured that all its officials had the same understanding of what documents were acceptable.
Mr De Villiers asked for how long an independent consultant would be contracted.
Mr De Villiers said that some pay points made use of voice verification but this was not the case at most retailers, and asked what systems for verification were used instead.
Mr Earl responded that voice activation was targeted at beneficiaries who used the banks, but people in rural areas could still use biometric readers at stores.
Mr De Villiers requested information on the MOUs that had been signed with the Department of Education and the Department of Health.
Mr De Villiers said that the security of beneficiaries at pay points was of concern, asked what was the budget for security, and how it was to be addressed at pay points.
Ms Petersen responded that the security at pay points was a continual and vexing issue. CPS insured the money, but SASSA’s concern lay with the people. SASSA had met with the Justice Cluster already, planned to meet private risk organisations, and was asking its legal advisors to look at what could be done to pay for funerals. SASSA was a high risk organisation, and the beneficiaries and the organisation would be a target. SASSA offices often held more money on site than the local banks. It was looking at a wide range of options to secure its staff and beneficiaries. While there was no budget for this, it was a moral imperative.
A Member asked if the Department knew where loveLife was distributing its money. She had visited a victim empowerment home called Bella Maria in Gauteng, which had been receiving varying amounts of money each month from loveLife, with the latter trying to prevent visits to the home to cover this up.
Ms Nxumalo responded that loveLife did not fund Bella Maria. She would investigate the matter and provide a report.
Mr T Makunyane (ANC Limpopo) noted that 31% of the budget went to payment contractors. This was SASSA’s core function, and he asked if it was not possible to develop in-house capacity to do that work rather than outsourcing it.
Ms Petersen responded that in-sourcing would be used in future. This contract was for five years, and one year had already elapsed. SASSA would not go out on tender for a full payment contract again, as it planned to manage the payment itself. This would result, initially, in increased cost, but it would drop over the long term. SASSA had to arrange for new staff, as it only currently had half of the staff numbers needed for such an undertaking. An advisory committee would be launched soon, which would help to prepare SASSA to take back this core function. It was a mammoth task and would require a major review of staffing.
Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) was concerned that the reduction of the baseline allocation would negatively affect service delivery.
Mr Netshipale responded that the Department tended to deal with the worst cases and the aftermath of HIV infection, such as the psycho-social repercussions and the children left behind. Although the infection rate had declined, people who were infected years ago were still getting sick. The Department could expect many people to whom it must respond, and agreed that the budget reduction was worrying.
Mr Modiba added that at the national office the reductions were seen in non-core activities, and so it would have no major impact on service delivery.
Mr Faber asked if problems had been experienced with the introduction of the card system. People in his constituency had had difficulty with it and had been unable to draw their money. He asked if this was a widespread problem, and how it was being addressed.
Ms Peterson responded that the new card was a SASSA card, so people would understand that it was government giving them their pension. Re-registration was necessary, to ensure that SASSA was paying the right people the right grant, and to address fraud in the system. To date, R59 million had been lost to fraud and only R1.1 million had been recovered.
Mr Earl added that people were not used to using the cards and often lost them or forgot their PIN number. In these cases the card would be replaced immediately, although the account was only reactivated within 72 hours, as was standard banking practice.
The Chairperson said that the Department had previously presented a comprehensive report on what infrastructure was in good shape, and what required improvement, and asked for an update.
A SASSA representative responded that R32.3 million had been allocated for infrastructure improvement.
The Chairperson asked what the relationship was between the Department’s work on poverty reduction and the poverty reduction programme in the Deputy President’s Office.
The Chairperson was pleased that the Department had a programme on child trafficking, and wanted to hear of any informative study on child trafficking, and if the extent of the problem was known.
Ms Nxumalo responded that a five year study was being conducted, which looked broadly at child protection, but also investigated child trafficking.
Committee Members requested that the Department make a full presentation on the Isibindi Model.
Ms Nxumalo responded that the Department would be happy to present on the Isibindi Model.
The Chairperson asked how the reduction in HIV and AIDS related deaths, which had been recorded by the Department of Health, would affect the DSD’s programmes and budget.
Mr Madonsela gave a general response to the questions. He said that the sector was working well together. The government had good policies, although when it came to implementation there were a lot of challenges.
South Africa was one of the few countries that was more resilient to the financial crisis that swept the globe. The fiscal and macro policy had contributed to that, and in addition the social development system had cushioned those who would otherwise have been driven to extreme poverty. This had also protected a number of companies, by increasing the purchasing power of beneficiaries. During the budget speech the Minister of Finance announced that over the next three years there would be no budget increases, and in fact there would be cuts. Despite South Africa’s resilience there were, however, some shocks from the financial crisis. The country needed to be cautious in its spending. The budget would be cut 1% in 2013/14, 2% in 2014/15 and 3% in 2015/16. The social development sector had saved a lot of money, thanks to SASSA and DSD efficiency cuts.
He noted that DSD should not be expected to bring such savings for government, and then get nothing back. The money that was saved should go back into social development programmes. National Treasury had had a problem with that concept, because whatever was saved nationally could not go back into provincial government. National Treasury had therefore asked that one or two things be prioritised for funding, and the DSD had elected to prioritise absorption of social workers who were graduating, and money for NPOs, because the Department relied on them for implementation. The DSD had indicated that savings had been made, but when it came to goods and services and other areas they were more cuts than savings. However, the Department was grateful that National Treasury had given some of the money back.
Mr Madonsela said that DSD and SASSA undertook to answer, in writing, the questions that could not be addressed in the meeting because of time constraints.
The meeting was adjourned.
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