South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) & National Development Agency 2nd quarter 2014/15 performance

Social Development

04 March 2015
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Meeting Summary

The Members of the Committee raised questions and provided input to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) in response to the agency’s earlier presentation on its quarterly financial and performance reports. This was followed by a presentation by the National Development Agency (NDA) on targets, programmes and achievements for the same period.

Prior to engaging on the SASSA presentation, various points were raised, particularly related to SASSA facilities in their different provinces. Offices in Mangaung, Giyani and the Free State were noted to have poor facilities, and the lack of proper facilities could hinder service delivery. Meanwhile, Members of the Committee from Gauteng said they had no negative remarks, as their involvement in SASSA negotiations had enabled them to keep track actively of SASSA’s service delivery.

Engaging on the SASSA presentation, Members dealt extensively with the issue of deductions. They felt that SASSA was not doing enough on the issue of deductions and that people who were illiterate or in rural areas were highly susceptible to unfair deductions. It was reported that in some regions, disputes relating to unfair deductions were not being recorded and as a result, people were left unassisted. The Members asked SASSA to give a clear response on how it planned to ensure that all disputes had been captured, given that there were in areas where there was deliberate failure to record disputes.

The challenge faced at the border in Limpopo was raised, drawing attention to the fact that many immigrants flood the border and children, having no documentation, are left abandoned on the South African side. SASSA was asked whether it was able to provide assistance by means of foster grants to abandoned children placed in foster homes by orders of the Limpopo courts. Furthermore, Members emphasized the need to strengthen fraud management. SASSA reported the arrest of four people in KwaZulu-Natal, who were found in possession of 97 SASSA cards and R96 000 of withdrawn grants. A similar arrest had been made at the beginning of the year in North West.

The NDA noted five programmes it currently implements to achieve its mandate. These covered resource mobilisation for civil society organisations (CSOs), capacity building for CSOs, civil society mobilisation and advocacy, research and knowledge management, and government and administration. With respect to the financial aspect of the report, the NDA was pleased to highlight that their spending results were in line with cost containment strategies that had been implemented. Some Members showed interest in asking questions immediately after the NDA presentation, while other Members felt otherwise. The Chairperson suggested that more time was needed to interrogate the NDA on the presentation, which would be provided for at another meeting. The meeting was therefore adjourned. 

Meeting report

Chairperson’s Opening Remarks

The Chairperson welcomed all guests and observers to the meeting, and stressed the right that affected persons had to attend the meeting, as the Portfolio Committee strove to be transparent in its dealings.

The purpose of the meeting was to allow for questions to be raised in response to the presentation which had been given by SASSA in the previous meeting, and for the NDA to give its presentation, as the Committee had been constrained by time at the previous meeting.

She tendered the apologies of the Committee Secretary, who was not available, but said the Acting Committee Secretary was present to fulfil the function.

The Acting Committee Secretary tendered apologies for the Minister, for Ms L van der Merwe (IFP), who was attending another committee meeting, and for Ms H Malgas (ANC), who was off sick.

SASSA Quarterly Financial & Performance Reports

Discussion

Some important points that emerged were that the SASSA office in Mangaung was not receptive to the invitation to meet the Members of Parliament deployed in the Mangaung area. This was noted to be a matter of concern, because it restricted the ability of the respective MPs to monitor whether services were being provided to the people in that area. The SASSA office building in the Mangaung area was reported to be very old, with its staff having bad attitudes. There was a strong belief that the bad attitudes were triggered by the condition of the building, which was not conducive to working. A request had therefore been made that the condition of the building be improved, to strengthen the quality of overall service delivery in the area.

Ms V Mogotsi (ANC) was confident in that she did not foresee service delivery problems in her designated province, Gauteng. She had been part of the SASSA negotiations and as a result, this made it easier for her to monitor service delivery in her designated province.

Mr S Mabilo (ANC) was pleased to say that SASSA’s footprint in the Northern Cape province was well established and he looked forward to a constructive relationship with the agency. He also emphasized that his role was to provide oversight, as opposed to micro-managing SASSA.

Ms B Abrahams (ANC) echoed her colleague, Ms Mogotsi, that there were no complaints from Gauteng, and thanked SASSA for the work that was being done in the Gauteng province.

Ms E Wilson (DA) asked for clarity on the Internal Reconsideration Mechanism (IRM). She noted that currently there was approximately a 180 day period between applying for an internal reconsideration and an appeal. She further expressed her discomfort at the fact that large amounts of money had been spent on the IRM, yet it had proved to have loopholes, and she asked if the mechanism was in effect necessary. She noted the challenges present at the border in Limpopo, stating that many illegal immigrants flooded the border with young children, who subsequently become abandoned on the South African side. SASSA had been asked to assist in this regard, particularly where children had been placed in foster care by an order of the Limpopo courts, yet SASSA had not been able to assist with foster care grants because foster families were not able produce identity documents for these abandoned children.

The Chairperson stopped Ms Wilson from continuing with raising her concerns, as she was dealing with matters which were to be dealt with later on in the meeting, once it was time to engage on the SASSA presentation.

Ms Wilson apologised for being carried away, and proceeded to raise points that were relevant. She was dissatisfied with the fact that the SASSA facilities in Giyani had had no roof for over two years, and had no water or toilet facilities for both staff and visitors. She said that the Giyani facility should be declared a disaster zone.

Ms S Kopane (DA) requested that the Members of the Committee be given the contact details of all the regional managers of SASSA from all the different provinces to assist the MPs performing oversight to reach regional managers when problems needed to be solved. She also raised the issue of poor SASSA facilities in the Free State area, where there were long queues and no chairs for old people, as well as no shelter. Another issue she raised was with regard to people who withdrew money at the bank, stating that the people stood in long queues with no shelter. She asked if these matters could be resolved.

The Chairperson asked if the meeting should proceed with having the SASSA engagement first, or the NDA presentation.

An EFF member suggested that the SASSA engagement should take place first, because SASSA had already given their presentation and the Members had been given time to look over the presentation. She asked for the time available to be managed effectively, as there were many matters to be dealt with, and the NDA had to also give their presentation.

The Chairperson gave the Members the opportunity to engage on the SASSA presentation.

An EFF member congratulated SASSA on the following achievements: The decrease in mediation, which was an indication of money being saved; fraud management, noting that there should however be an increase in the management of fraud; the 8% increase in the social grant aid, adding further that SASSA should strengthen the social grant aid through educational activities, because she believed that many people were still unaware of the different grants available to them.

The Chairperson asked SASSA to explain the role played by the community in fraud management.

Ms Kopane acknowledged that SASSA was indeed providing a service for the people. She raised the issue of deductions, stating that SASSA was not doing enough on the issue of deductions. She suggested that there should be an audit committee to deal with risk on the deduction of grants. She was not pleased with the vacancy rate -- SASSA needs to explain why vacancies were not being filled. She further commended SASSA on the transparency of their report, and congratulated them on the work that they do.

The Chairperson said that, with regard to the issue of cross border matters, people who entered the country illegally did not have any documentation and they were a big drain on social development services, health services and education, to name but a few, and this was catered for in the government budget.

Ms Kopane appreciated the initiative taken by the Department to develop a fraud management system within SASSA, and asked whether the partnership between SASSA and the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) still existed. She referred to chapter 4 of the Social Assistance Act, which stated that there were to be offices established to deal with the management of fraud and corruption. She asked when these offices were going to be built.

The Chairperson referred to Ms Kopane’s point on the audit committee, and emphasised that it was a serious requirement.

Ms Dianne Dunkerley, Executive Manager: Grants Administration, SASSA, responded that with regard to illegal immigrants, SASSA could not assist children until they had documentation. Where children were placed with South African care givers under a court order, SASSA could provide assistance, even if the children had no documentation, as the court order would be regarded as sufficient documentation.

Ms Dunkerley explained further that for the period ending 30 September 2014, there had been 2 656 requests for internal reconsideration and of those, more than 95% had been rejected, proceeding to the appeal process. To streamline the appeal process, the appeal tribunal had been given electronic access to the documents that are used in the internal reconsideration, to try and reduce the period of 180 days.

On the subject of the SIU, Ms Virginia Petersen, Chief Executive Officer, SASSA, explained that their current engagement with the SIU was only for taking over their debtors’ book. The process with the SIU had concluded and as a result, its partnership with the SIU had ceased.

Ms Pearl Bengu, KwaZulu-Natal Regional Executive Member, SASSA, stated that four people had been arrested in KwaZulu-Natal for withdrawing grants at ATMs. They had been found in possession of approximately R96 000 and 97 SASSA cards, and the investigation was still under way. In January, there had been similar arrests in the North West Province, where individuals were found to be in possession of 137 SASSA cards and had duly been arrested by the South African Police Services (SAPS).

Mr Frank Earl, Executive Manager: Grant Benefits Transfer, SASSA, responded to the question on deductions and said that SASSA did accept responsibility and would continue to work with the beneficiaries to resolve disputes around deductions. He provided the following statistics regarding disputes that had been lodged in the last six months to date:              

- 66 disputes relating to pensioners who claimed they had not bought the funeral policy and wanted the policy to be cancelled;

  - 3 900 ATM disputes;  

  - 2 536 disputes relating to airtime;

   - zero disputes relating to micro lending.              

He assured the Members that all of the above mentioned disputes had been resolved and the beneficiaries had been refunded. A follow up system was also in place to ensure that the beneficiaries were refunded.

The Chairperson said that the report that SASSA offices received regarding disputes did not capture everyone who had lodged a complaint because in most rural areas, particularly where people were illiterate, people who lodged disputes were not assisted. She asked how SASSA planned on dealing with this matter.

A representative of the Department of Social Development (DSD) stated that the intention of the DSD was to stop all deductions, with the exception of the s26A deduction, for the time being. The Ministerial Task Team (MTT) had suggested that SASSA set up an internal recourse management system so that people’s complaints were dealt with seriously and that there was a tracking system to find out what had happened to the complaint.

The Chairperson asked how the data relating to complaints would be captured, particularly where disputes had deliberately not been recorded. She suggested that the steps for dealing with unfair deductions be made available to the beneficiaries in the respective regions and that the regions report to their offices on a monthly basis.

Ms Kopane emphasised that there should be vigorous education done by SASSA on the issue of deductions, and that it should be done in the language that people used in their areas, such as having SASSA addressing the issue on local radio stations. She further noted that social media did not go deeply into addressing the problem.

In terms of the communication strategy, Ms Petersen said that there would be an integrated platform between the DSD and SASSA on the issues that had been brought forward. She said that the Minister had requested that there be a police person at pay points to detect deductions and to get affidavits immediately from people who were getting deductions.

Ms Thandi Sibanyoni, Acting Executive Manager: Corporate Services, SASSA, referred to the issue of the vacancy rate, and explained that when SASSA was established, it was not ready to pay social grants on its own, which was why a decision had been taken to outsource the payment of grants. She believed that eventually, when SASSA took over the payment of social grants, there should be an increase in the number of vacancies.

NDA Quarterly Performance and Financial report, 2013/14

Dr Vuyelwa Nhlapo, CEO, National Development Agency (NDA), thanked the Chairperson and Members of the Committee for the opportunity to present the quarterly performance. She indicated that Mr Phumlani Zwane, Chief Financial Officer, NDA, was present and would be presenting the second quarter performance and financial report.

She briefly went through the primary and secondary mandate of the NDA, which was informed by the National Development Act. With regard to the NDA’s operating environment, she briefly pointed out that the NDA had undergone a review last year which had been commissioned by the DSD. The process of the review had assisted the NDA to channel the agency forward and come up with a new strategy plan in terms of how to redefine, refocus and enhance the NDA. This would ensure that the NDA was relevant to its stakeholders, which were the state and civil society organisations (CSO).

In 2014/15, the NDA was implementing the following programmes in order to achieve its mandate:

Programme 1: Capacity Building

The purpose of this was to build and enhance the capacity of CSOs to deliver better services to poor communities; through training, mentorship and incubation of CSOs operating in poor communities.

Programme 2: Research and Development

This programme was meant to produce evidence-based information that was capable of influencing and directing national and institutional policy on development programmes implemented by the civil society sector, public sector and business sector.

Programme 3: Resource Mobilisation

This programme aimed to mobilise resources in cash and in kind through sustainable partnerships towards community development programmes implemented by the civil society sector.

Programme 4: Governance and Administration

The purpose of this programme was to promote and maintain organisational excellence and sustainability through effective and efficient administration that included performance, employee well-being, and brand recognition.

Ms Nhlapo stated that the NDA had 24 annual performance targets, of which 18 were due for reporting in second quarter. Five targets had been achieved and 13 were not achieved. The targets recorded as “not achieved” had reached a 75% achievement level against the set targets, so that there was in fact partial achievement.

She referred the Committee to the tables on the slides, which showed the programmes, the annual targets, what had been achieved, what had been partially achieved, the annual targets that were not due for reporting and what had not been achieved. (See attached document).

Mr Zwane highlighted the following on the financial performance in the second quarter:

-The NDA had received R89.2 million of the approved annual allocation of R178 million as revenue from the DSD, by way of transfers;

- 44% of the total annual budget had been spent on mandated expenses;

- 49% of the total annual budget had been spent an administration expenses, which was line with the cost containment strategies which had been implemented.

- In respect of third party funds (mobilised resources), R15.9 million had been spent on the implementation of projects funded from resources mobilised from other partners.

Discussion                  

The Chairperson thanked Mr Zwane for his presentation and suggested that the Members refrain from asking questions and instead allow the NDA to come again so that more time could be given to interrogation of the report.

The meeting was adjourned.

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