South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) presented its 3rd quarter 2014/15 performance report. The key priorities were geared to reducing income poverty, improving social delivery, improving internal efficiency and institutionalising social grants payment system within SASSA. A particular objective was to reduce inclusion and exclusion errors and improve the management of Social Relief of Distress by ensuring qualifying beneficiaries were not disadvantaged. It also wanted to achieve a reduction in audit findings. The main goal was to provide social assistance to qualifying, eligible beneficiaries, SASSA’s target was set at 1.1 million new beneficiaries. From April to December, it had processed 1 045 010, or 95% of the annual target, with 323 007 processed in this quarter. A breakdown of approvals, rejections and outstanding applications was given, with a narrative. Other slides presented on the implementation (with figures) of the social assistance programme. There was an increase of 0.2% from the preceding quarter and the annual target had been exceeded due to higher up take of the Grant In Aid and the Care Dependency Grants. These were explained and it was noted that more people were becoming aware of these. Lapsed grants were at 1 081 233, mostly due to Child Support grants that expired when the child reached 18. The take up of all grants in the quarter was summarised. Provincial growth statistics were also outlined, with a breakdown of the type of grants and numbers per province, although SASSA still had to correct the classification of provinces as opposed to regions. KwaZulu-Natal had 23.5% of the total, followed by the Eastern Cape with 16.3%, and then Gauteng and Limpopo both at 13%. The smallest province of grant coverage remained the Northern Cape. There had been continuous programmes to find and include children under one year old who were not on the system, and the numbers belied the perception that young women were falling pregnant simply to access the grants. The target was 70% of children to be registered, although SASSA had managed to register only 44%. It was trying to improve the management of Social Relief of Distress. It had managed to reduce turnaround times, from 21 days to 10 days for 97.04% of applications. It was still working on upgrading offices and getting new offices in places where SASSA services were not already accessible. In this quarter five local offices and ten paypoints were improved. The Integrated outreach interventions were also key, particularly designed to reach those in inaccessible places. SASSA had a specialised approach to go and do intensive work in those areas, and a lot more ICROP work still needed to be done in those areas where children were still very vulnerable. It would try to link with other departments, particularly Department of Home Affairs, for these visits to process applications far quicker.
SASSA outlined what it was doing to answer the Constitutional Court's judgment on future payments and tenders. It was working on an intermediate and final solution in tandem. Work on the supply chain would soon start. Biometric Standards was an ongoing project. The re-registration process continued, and at the moment SASSA was working on improving the ICT infrastructure, biometric authentication of users and cleaning of the re-registration data. SASSA was doing a project with CSIR, looking at the quality of the fingerprints, to see if there were duplicates, working closely with Department of DHA. Its efforts for efficient and effective administration were outlined, including the vacancies and filling of posts. In respect of fraud management, there were 235 new cases and 588 investigations ongoing. Nine internal audits had been done in high risk areas for the risk register. The target for investigation of fraud was exceeded. Seven litigation matters were dealt with. Overall, around 63% of targets were achieved, but it was pointed out that December and January were always slower months.
In respect of spending, SASSA achieved 70% spending, below the target of 75%. The areas of under-expenditure were explained, particularly in compensation of employees and goods and services, whereas assets showed overspending of 119%. Savings were achieved on legal fees, handling fees, compensation of employees, where filling of posts was slow, and telephone , as well as leases, where it was dependent on the Department of Public Works for progress. The main challenges included the payment tender process, decreasing financial resources, although SASSA did have a reserve at the moment, although that would be largely used up when it moved to a capex model, new types of fraud which it would need to address, and disasters that put pressure on Social Relief of Distress grants.
Members raised concerns about the high litigation costs and the high vacancy rate, given that the termination rate was also so high, especially of contract workers, and asked how these contract workers would be handled, with the latest labour legislation. Clarification was requested regarding the biometrics, CSIR and the overspending in Assets. Members asked how fraud and management and litigation affected the current budget. Members also wanted to know what SASSA was doing regarding recruitment of personnel with disabilities. They asked for more detail on the relationship with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, including the biometric standard for card verification, and the requirements to be met for grants were discussed. Members asked about disability employment and SASSA conceded that although the figure here was below target, it did have specific initiatives in mind to analyse and change the entire recruitment process, and was deploying sign language interpreters. Concern was expressed on the social workers and their place in social development, and Members did not feel that the presentation had adequately dealt with that issue. The Members and Chairperson held a long discussion on allegations that food parcels were being used as incentives or threats to persuade people to vote in a certain direction; Members noted that there were concerns in various places involving several parties, but it was noted that few of these allegations were actually substantiated and the Minister requested that affidavits should be obtained so that the Department could properly address the points. All Members were agreed that such a practice, whether by officials or those holding themselves out as Departmental employees, were completely unacceptable and the Committee must work to ensure not only that those needing assistance were receiving it, but that any illicit practices were promptly reported and stopped. The Minister of Social Development also addressed the issue and went on to set out some of the interventions made by the Department of Social Development.
The Committee noted that some written questions would be referred in relation to the Department of Social Development's 3rd quarter report, given at the previous meeting, in view of the shortage of time.
The Chairperson acknowledged that the Minister of Social Development would be arriving a little later, and noted the apologies of the Deputy Minister.
She reminded Members that at the last meeting, the Department of Social Development (DSD) had given its 3rd quarter 2014/15 performance report, but that no questions were asked, and there would be an opportunity to raise issues later in the meeting. She noted that Port Elizabeth/ Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality had a new Executive Mayor in the form of Danny Jordaan and proffered congratulations.
South African Social Security Agency 3rd quarter 2014/15 performance briefing
Ms Virginia Petersen, Chief Executive Officer, South African Social Security Agency, set out the vision, mission, and slogan of the Agency (SASSA) but moved on then to slide 6, which set out the main strategic outcome. SASSA intended to expand access to social assistance and create a platform for future payment of social security benefits. SASSA’s goal therefore was to render social assistance to eligible beneficiaries.
The key priorities that were addressed for the 2014/15 period in relation to the 2014/15 – 2018/19 strategic plan, with a primary focus on reducing income poverty, improving social delivery, improving internal efficiency and institutionalising social grants payment system within SASSA were set out. She noted that the report covered the period from October to December 2014
Ms Petersen noted that in pursuance of the main goal to provide social assistance to qualifying, eligible beneficiaries, SASSA’s target was set at 1.1 million new beneficiaries. In terms of achievements, in quarter two, 363 979 new applications were processed. Added up, from April to September, the total was 730 729, which was 66% of the annual target. For Quarter 3, 323 007 new applications were processed. The total number of applications that were processed from April to December was 1 045 010, which was 95% of the annual target.
A breakdown of the approvals, rejections and outstanding applications was given. 949 936 were approved, 56 143 were rejected (mainly disabilities) and 47 657 were outstanding. This was supplemented by a chart in slide 10.
Slide 11 dealt with the implementation of the social assistance programme, so again the objective was to provide social assistance to qualifying, eligible beneficiaries. The annual target for 2014/15 was to increase the number of grants in payment from 15 932 473 to 16 052 000 by the end of 2014/15. Against this target, there were 16 443 196 social grants in payment at the end of the third quarter. This represented an increase of 37 343 social grants or 0.2% from the preceding quarter. The annual target was exceeded by 391 196 due to a higher up take of the Grant In Aid and the Care Dependency Grants.
Ms Petersen stated that the Minister had previously stated that not all persons knew how to access the Grant In Aid. These grants were especially for older people, and were coupled with their pension, particularly for those who needed additional support. This led to the 9% increase in Grant In Aid and the 1.4% increase in Care Dependency Grants.
Lapsed grants during that period totalled 1 081 233 social grants. The lapsing was due to temporary status of some grants, and the fact that children were turning 18. During quarter 3, 402 132 grants were lapsed, mainly due to children leaving school. (the Child Support Grants were mainly affected)
Slide 12 provided a table which gave the take up of grants per grant type during the quarter under review. There were 124 225 Care Dependency Grants which grew to 126 010 by the end of the third quarter (1.4% increase). The Child Support Grants were 11 480 576 and increased to 11 574 493 by the end of the third quarter, which was a 0.8% growth.
Foster Care Grants were 553 223 and those moved down to 455 946. There was a team appointed by the Minister to look into Foster Care, particularly for young children who are turning 18, whether they are in school and whether social workers needed to provide reports, so that the order could be extended to cover them.
The Disability Grants were 1 124 770 and had increased to 1 127 867 by the end of the third quarter, which was a 0.3% increase.
Grant In Aid moved up from 96 433 to 105 087, demonstrating the 9% increase.
Old Age Grants had a steady increase of 0.9% and so were at 3 053 440 by the end of the third quarter.
War Veterans continued to pass away, and there would always be a decline, year on year, of veterans from the First and Second World Wars, as well as the Korean War.
An indication of provincial growth statistics for the third quarter was found on Slide 13. The Eastern Cape had negative growth in this particular quarter while there was positive growth, particularly in the Western Cape of 1.3% (18 145 increase).
Slide 14 was the breakdown of grants per type in the different provinces. Ms Petersen acknowledged that SASSA still referred to provinces as regions, but hoped to correct this for better alignment.
KwaZulu-Natal had 23.5% of the total, followed by the Eastern Cape with 16.3%, and then Gauteng and Limpopo both at 13%. The smallest province of grant coverage remained the Northern Cape,
Another objective was the reduction of inclusion and exclusion errors. There had been a continuous programme to try and increase the 0-1 numbers of young children who were not on the system. SASSA was aware of the perception of a perverse incentive that young women may purposely get pregnant and go straight onto the grant. However, SASSA struggled to actually find children to get on to the system.
SASSA has managed to register 519 839 of children in the 0-1 years category, which represented 44.1% of the children in this age category. The target remained at 70%, and SASSA was working to achieve that outcome. There was an increase of only 0.7%. The breakdown of children’s grants in payment in the 0-1 category- Child Support Grants were 519 257, Child Dependency Grants were 336 000 and Foster Care Grants were 246 000.
The next objective was improving the management of Social Relief of Distress by ensuring qualifying beneficiaries were not disadvantaged. The annual target was 160 000 applications to be processed over the next three years. SASSA achieved 60 077 applications processed during the quarter under review and the total expenditure for the quarter was R93 004 152.
In terms of improving conditions under which beneficiaries were served, this dealt with turnaround time and the infrastructure that SASSA used. SASSA had said that it wanted to reduce the average turnaround time to 10 days, from the previous 21 days. 97.04% of applications were processed within 21 days and 0.26% were processed after the 21 days. SASSA continues to work on that objective.
The other annual target was the upgrading of SASSA offices, and to also try get new offices in places where it was not easily accessible, or could not be upgraded. In Quarter 3, five local offices, and ten pay points were improved.
In improving the conditions under which beneficiaries are served, the integrated outreach ICROP and Mikondzo interventions remained SASSA’s key target, particularly to reach those who were inaccessible. It was recently in Kokstad for the launch of Child Protection Week, and found that there was still under-inclusion in some of the smaller areas around Kokstad. People live in concentrated, small areas but there were far distances between them. This required SASSA to have a specialised approach to go and do intensive work in those areas, and a lot more ICROP work still needed to be done in those areas where children were still very vulnerable.
In Quarter 3, 247 ICROP interventions were held. ICROP was a way for communities to engage SASSA. SASSA received phone calls from concerned citizens, NPOs and others, commenting that having a service point visit an area only once a month was not enough. SASSA would advertise its schedule and try to join up with Department of DHA for these visits. Ms Petersen cited one example where the SASSA team had noted that a woman clearly had the wrong birth date in her ID document, and managed to help her on the spot to rectify this. SASSA would assign a number, Department of DHA (DHA) would do the investigation, and things moved along faster.
Ms Petersen continued to the future payment system. The annual target related to implementation of the Payment Tender, following the tender process as directed by the Constitutional Court. SASSA was working on a two-track plan, running in two parallel streams. One would put out the tender and run it for five years. Simultaneously, it would be looking at other options. It was getting international experts' advice on this, through Ministerial Advisory Committees. The work on the supply chain would soon start.
Biometric Standards was an ongoing project. SASSA wanted, itself, to biometrically enrol beneficiaries in the future. This was government’s data and SASSA would have to take responsibility.
The re-registration process, aimed at establishing a credible national payment database, had begun in 2012, with two phases. Some led to SASSA cancelling grants, or people returned cards saying they were not eligible. The focus at the moment was on improvement of the ICT infrastructure, biometric authentication of users and cleaning of the re-registration data. SASSA was doing a project with CSIR, looking at the quality of the fingerprints, to see if there were duplicates, working closely with Department of DHA. If duplications were found, SASSA's door to door workers would check on the issue to check whether the results were due to poor prints or another reason.
SASSA aimed to have effective and efficient administration, paying particular attention to Human Resources, SASSA identified critical posts filled in Quarter 3. The total number of posts budgeted for at the various levels were 10 375. By the end of September 2014, there were 9 699 personnel in the system, which meant 93.5% of the funded posts were filled. The new appointments in this quarter terminations and transfers were described. New appointments totalled 47 in Quarter 3, 17 were permanent and 30 were contract. There were 234 terminations, 138 of which were contract, ended when the projects ended, and 96 were permanent and 8 were transfers. Two Human Capital policies were reviewed, the Leave and Performance Management. There was one labour relation case reported in Quarter 3.
To promote good governance and accountability, the planned targets were the reduction of audit findings, and here Ms Petersen emphasised that SASSA had an unqualified audit, but it wanted to emulate the DSD and move towards a completely clean audit, whilst also achieving reduction in fraud, theft and corruption and reduction in litigation.
Fraud management from 1 October 2014 to 31 December 2014 was described. There were 235 new cases received, and 588 investigations, of which 353 were from Quarter 2. Ms Petersen explained that in reporting of fraud, there was always a residue as an opening balance, which would then increase as more cases were added. The number of investigations would always exceed the number of new cases. This was important because of the carry through from the previous quarter.
SASSA did nine internal audit reviews within the organisation in areas of high risk to address their risk register. In the legal department, 238 letters of demand were received and responded to.
The target for fraud management was that 60% of identified fraud and corruption cases should be investigated. The regions’ investigation average for Quarter 3 was 250%, which meant they had a higher yield. Some of the investigations continued over such a long period of time, but SASSA was tracking cases since 2011. From 1 October to 31 December 2014, 235 cases were received and 588 investigations were ongoing.
Slide 24 was a graphic representation of where fraud was reported, which provinces and where the work was actually done in Quarter 3. Some provinces did good recovery work during Quarter 3.
A total of seven litigation matters were dealt with. Two were social grants, which was reconsideration and suspension matters, two were requests for previous information, there was a Government Employee Pension Fund (GEPF) matter regarding release of pension funds, one was a motor vehicle accident matter and one was a supply chain management matter Slide 26 reported where these matters were dealt with. The total of litigation costs at the end of Quarter 2 was R216 000, and this included matters that had been coming on over the period. Slide 27 gave a breakdown of the litigation from April to December 2014 to give more of an understanding of the work done during that financial year.
A summary of SASSA’s performance, in terms of the targets achieved, were that around 62% to 63% were marked as achieved. Quarter 2 showed slightly better performance, but she noted that matters slowed in December and January.
Mr Tsakeriwa Chauke, Acting Chief Financial Officer, SASSA, continued to set out the financial performance. Slide 29 showed that overall spending as at the end of December 2014 was at 70%. This was broken down on Slide 30. Compensation of Employees and Goods and Services had a spending of 68%. There was overspending under Assets of 119%.
Out of the allocation of R6.5 billion up until the end of December 2014, there was a projection that R4.9 billion would be spent. However, SASSA managed to spend R4.6 billion. This was a saving, or underspending, compared to the normal projection of 75%. There was about 5% underspending in that regard.
Referring to Slide 31, Mr Chauke stated that if Compensation of Employees was taken out and Goods and Services alone analysed, it would be possible to see the items where spending was lower.
Legal fees were at 25% which was triggered by the fact that provisions were made only when amounts were spent. There was a 2% saving on handling fees, a sizeable amount, because of the company that was used to assist SASSA pay grants. Out of the R1.9 billion, it was projected that SASSA would spend R1.495 billion. However, SASSA actually spent R1.461 billion. About R34 million was spent on one item.
In relation to Compensation of Employees SASSA would specifically look into issues at year beginning and middle. SASSA still had about 676 vacancies. During that quarter, SASSA only managed to filled 47 posts. December was a difficult month to advertise positions. Positions advertised in October and November were not finalised during that quarter, hence the significant number of vacant posts at that particular point.
For Goods and Services SASSA had a saving in the telephone management systems in all the regional offices. SASSA was rolling out the system to local offices soon which would limit the number of calls that officials could make. If they exceeded their limit of R250 they would have to make representations for more budget, based on the work to be done.
The handling fees was a set amount of money that SASSA kept until the end of the financial year, looking at the movements of grants, so SASSA still realised a savings.
SASSA had a significant number of leases that needed to be concluded by the end of the financial year. However, it was dependent on the Department of Public Works for this, and there were delays in requisitions and acquisitions, resulted in under-spending.
For travel and subsistence SASSA was in line with the National Treasury directive threshold.
Generally, in terms of spending, SASSA was below the norm, due to the reasons indicated.
Ms Petersen then finalised the presentation by dealing with the risks and challenges. The Payment Tender had closed on 8 May, it was now in the process of supply chain management and administration processes, so SASSA had passed some of those hurdles. SASSA would wait to see how it all materialised by October, within the time frame it had been given.
She noted the decreasing financial resources, but said that SASSA did have a reserve at the moment. However, as it moved forward to using a capex model in future, quite a large sum of money would be required as it was still operating on old systems, and automating systems would cost a lot. SASSA would have to be in constant discussion with National Treasury on this point.
SASSA had noted a decline in the fraud, theft and corruption after the re-registration process, until recently, when a new type of fraud manifested itself in North West. SASSA therefore had to look at how to close down those risks again.
Disasters were always a pressure on Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grants. There were no major fires in the Western Cape during the December period. There was flooding which created problems, because about 1000 people were displaced. Deductions was an ongoing issue, and load-shedding affected SASSA's work at times.
Ms H Malgas (ANC) noted that the SASSA report differed from that of the DSD. DSD had set out annual targets first, then those for Quarter 3. SASSA was measuring against annual targets
Ms Petersen explained that SASSA’s Annual Performance Plan (APP) would break down into the lower levels of work per quarter. In future, she would be happy to adjust and align the presentation, by lifting out the APP sub-targets.
The Chairperson noted that since the focus of the meeting was the third quarter, it would be useful for SASSA to immediately orientate its document to that.
Ms E Wilson (DA) asked about the litigation, noting five alleged wrongful suspensions, two labour matters and six social grants, all of which fell under one area, and she wondered why that was so. She asked about the current status on the wrongful suspensions as they could often lead to very costly litigation.
Ms Wilson knew that the vacancies were raised in every meeting, but repeated that they were a continuing concern, particularly when looking at slide 21. SASSA currently had 676 vacancies, and although there were 47 new appointments there were 234 terminations, of which 138 were contract. She questioned why there was such a high termination rate when the vacancy rate was so high. She stated that there must be ways in which those contractors, if they were sufficiently qualified - and she pointed out that SASSA spent a lot training contract workers - could be used to fill the vacancies. There was a continuous gap of hiring and leaving.
Ms Wilson reiterated the question raised by Ms Malgas regarding the quarterly targets. She also referred to the biometrics and the work SASSA was doing with Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and she asked whether this was at a pilot project stage, what was this project and an idea of costs to date. Ms Wilson also requested to know how much the overspend on assets was.
Ms Malgas requested for Slide 24 to be clarified, regarding the fraud management. She also asked about Slide 9 regarding approvals and rejected outstanding, asking for details on both.
Ms Malgas noted that fraud management and litigation applied from 2011, but questioned how this might have affected the current budget, repeating that because SASSA did not give its quarterly targets, something seemed to be missing.
Ms B Abrahams (ANC) questioned the termination of contract workers. She asked whether their salary was much higher as contractors, and if they perhaps did not want to work on a permanent basis. She also asked what the requirements were for the Dependency Care grants. She also wanted to know how many of the new appointments were people with disabilities.
Ms Renay Ogle, General Manager: Fraud and Compliance, DSD, answered the question regarding the fraud management compliance statistics on page 24. Cases were calculated or listed from 2011. Prior to 2012/13, there was no system in SASSA where cases were listed. SASSA began developing the fraud management system in May of 2012, with the assistance of SASSA’s IT component. SASSA then registered all cases it had from across the country on to the system in 2012/13. Thus in 2012/13 there were 7 734 cases - which included everything not listed before. The system was growing and being enhanced continuously. At the start, this was merely a system to capture cases. Not every case would lead to an investigation. SASSA applied an assessment methodology to look at the case as it came in, see whether it should be investigated, and, where there was no substantiation provided, whether SASSA would need to follow up with the complainant; if not, the matter would be closed. A case not falling within SASSA's mandate and scope would be forwarded to the relevant business unit or agency.
In 2012/13 SASSA had improved the system, showing now whether a case was referred, investigated, and what the outcomes were. Currently, it could track every case from "cradle to grave". From now on it would be able to determine the outcomes and tracking for every quarter.
Ms Ogle repeated that there was always a backlog. S5ASSA started with 7 734 cases, but to date SASSA has had 12 000 and more cases captured in the system. All the other matters captured earlier would be included with the figures for the specific quarter in this report. The target of 60% was exceeded, with 62% reached. Quarter 3 was a high productivity and high volume quarter.
Ms Petersen added that sometimes fraud investigation processes took almost four years before they would go to court, and that would obviously lead to the increase in numbers of cases. However, in future, the SASSA would report separately which of the cases were concluded, which were being carried over and which were new.
She added that this meant litigation costs were not confined to one quarter or even one year and many of the particularly large bills were from 2010 or 2011. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development would bill SASSA and expect it to pay quickly, because that Department also had to pay legal practitioners and the State Attorney. Three cases went back to 2006 - the first year of SASSA operations. SASSA had tried hard to manage its own part of this, but now it had to manage the interface with the Department of Justice.
Ms Petersen moved on to speak to the contract posts. She explained that there were different types of contracts. Some were linked to a project, so they were fixed term. Others might be linked to a specific programme, such as communications with beneficiaries, on a door-to-door basis, and once that project was completed, the contract would end. There was a compensation of employees gap. SASSA could have to become massive if it were to pay out the grants itself. In some cases, SASSA was under pressure. It would like to retain some contractors who had learnt the system, but it had been told, by the Department of April, that if it still had contract employees it would at some stage have to take them on full time, or end the contract. Some people had been absorbed into the Agency in April.
The Chairperson clarified that the law required that SASSA not create expectations in its contract workers, which was the reason why, if the contract was not ongoing, it should be terminated. However, she wondered if, when SASSA advertised, it would tell the former contract workers that they could apply. She wondered if unemployed people who had a particular skill be able to apply to posts, even contract posts.
Ms T Sibanyone, Executive Manager, SASSA stated that SASSA would give further opportunities to people in whom it had already invested training. The Public Service Policy said that posts advertised in the public service could only be advertised externally if SASSA did not find anyone internally. SASSA, however, amended this in its own operations to allow interns, Expanded Public Works Programme workers and contract workers to apply as internal candidates. This gave them a better chance, over and above the fact that they may have the experience.
She noted that the figures shown also included interns and EPWP workers. She stressed that an internship is not necessarily a job, it is a learnership, and when this came to an end, it must be terminated. However, the intern would be given the opportunity to compete then for posts advertised. Most of those whom SASSA trained it would absorb, when posts became available, but SASSA did not have sufficient posts to take all. If some interns left, then applied for later posts, they would be considered internal candidates.
Mr Frank Earl, Executive Manager, SASSA, spoke to the biometric project. The CSIR reported to the Department of Science and Technology, but SASSA had contracted with them to do work, including a feasibility study for SASSA for develop a payment system in terms of an in-source model. CSIR would be developing a model looking at application and payment solution if SASSA were to take on payment itself. It was currently researching both an interim and a permanent solution, because of the risks of switching immediately for the over 16 million beneficiaries. The cost of those two deliverables was R11 million.
CSIR was also busy with the development of an identification and enrolment system, the latter being currently out-sourced to a contractor. Enrolment was not currently incorporated into the RFP system, and CSIR was looking to specify what SASSA would need in order to take over enrolment itself. The cost was around R6 million.
Finally, CSIR was busy with the biometric standard for the card verification method for beneficiaries who transacted using banks or point-of-sale devices. Given the fact that most pensioners were vulnerable to fraud as a result of pins, the specification would allow them to verify themselves by fingerprint identification at an ATM. Once that has developed (in partnership with the Payment Association of South Africa, Central Bank and DHA) the Central Bank could then instruct all 22 banks in South Africa who wanted to participate in biometric card verification, to roll out biometric enabled ATMs and point-of-sale devices in the country. That would mean 21 000 possible banks, and 300 000 point of sale devices, although only those wanting to participate would do so. SASSA is a stakeholder but it also has a vested interest because of its 10.2 million card holders. The project was primarily driven by the Central Bank. DHA was the custodian of the card verification method and the holders of the biometric data within South Africa. All banks would interface directly with DHA.
He clarified that CSIR did not actually develop or implement the systems, but did the research necessary to get them developed. It advised government departments and agencies what equipment and software would be needed. SASSA would still have to go out on tender to procure the items.
Ms Petersen confirmed that the rejection of grants happened, in the main, because people applying were not eligible. This was particularly so for disability and care dependency grants. Many cases are linked to means tests The rejection could also be as a result of potential fraud, and if there were complaints SASSA would lapse or suspend the grant while the investigation was under way. Children turning 18 would have their grants lapsed at the end of the year. The temporary disability grants lapsed continuously; the period for these was six to twelve months. CPS would pay only to those who had activated their cards.
Care dependency grants were assessed against guidelines that doctors had to follow in how they would assess a dependent child. In the absence of any harmoniser care assessment tool, SASSA developed its own guidelines, which were standardised across the nine provinces, and doctors were trained on them.
Many rejections came out of applications for care dependency grants. Some conditions were not deemed to be "medically unfit" - but parents could appeal. The cases ranged from autistic children to higher income parents. Details of assessments were available, if the Committee wished to see them. Ms Petersen used the example of a child who has cerebral palsy, but it is not to the extent that it needs 24 hour care. In addition, granting a mobililty aid may make the person more independent and s/he may then not need the grant. Work on care dependency was difficult. SASSA relied on doctors and diagnostics to say what type of care a child required, and therefore whether it would need a permanent carer.
The person who took the application initially would not be the person who decided on the grant. SASSA was advised by a medical team and various instruments. Level 5 employees to whom applications were given to process were different from the medical person assessing the matter using guidelines.
Ms Petersen noted the question on wrongful suspensions and clarified that the person appealing would be claiming the suspension was wrongful, although obviously SASSA would regard it as rightful. Usually, if a matter is not resolved within 60 days, a worker is allowed to return. In the matter cited, it dealt with fraud, and workers in the Eastern Cape Regional Office, and SASSA was continuing with the matter, although it would take a while.
Mr Earl added to the comment on disability grants again, saying that the doctors who assessed would depend on medical notes as provided by the hospital and clinic, and those would include the clinical notes and referrals.SASSA did not own that information, and often patients had to ask that it be brought before SASSA to help the doctor make an informed decision. SASSA would encourage people to ask for information always.
Mr Chauke responded to the question of assets and expenditure. SASSA had indicated that in the 2013/14 year, it had spent money buying cars, but some were delivered only in 2014/15, and because it had already received money from National Treasury, it paid out of those reserves so the payments were not reflected on the budget, but as rollovers. But for rest of the assets SASSA had budgeted for 2014/15. The money used was actually available already, as retained surplus funding. He briefly explained how rollover applications worked.
The same applied to the litigation. SASSA would make provision for cases running in the current year, estimating the final cost, and would align the budgets fully once this was known.
Ms Sibanyone admitted that the SASSA was not doing well in terms of disabled recruitment, with 1.2% disabled employment at March 2015. The Deputy Minister of Social Development was particularly passionate about disability. She had given SASSA some ideas on how to attract and recruit persons with disabilities. SASSA would be issuing adverts as it had already identified which posts it thought could be filled by those with disabilities, from senior management to lower levels. It would be using institutions dealing with disabilities in advertising. It would also be reviewing the whole recruitment process. For instance, it currently expected all - including those with hearing disabilities - to come for interview. It would be training sign language interpreters to be of assistance to staff, and deploy them to local offices. The mobile offices were visiting areas, but were effectively still excluding those with certain disabilities, and these kinds of barriers may have discouraged people from applying.
Ms Petersen added that, as a service organisation, it was vital for SASSA to have people who could engage in sign language. SASSA had had training for 200 workers, and had looked at the shortcomings in that training to improve it. It had to retain staff with disabilities, and in fact SASSA had been looking into how many of its staff had resigned to move to other departments.
Concerns were raised about lack of communication with management. Most of disabled employees were at lower level and SASSA would have to ensure representivity throughout. SASSA was working on a new strategy and should have finalise it shortly.
Ms Malgas commented that Slide 24 gave a skewed picture of what was being done. The budget was also affected. SASSA had set out the legal fees, but if the figures were looked at, they seemed to indicate that SASSA was not paying within the requisite 30 days. She believed that there was much interrogation needed of the Annual Report.
The Chairperson was concerned about the gap between the agency operations of SASSA and social issues, pointing out that very little had been said about social workers, and the presentation had not shown the participation of social workers with expertise in social issues. She said that if a disabled person went to a doctor to handle an appeal, it was not just the medical issues but also the social ones that were important. She had not thought that SASSA coming into operation was intended to impact upon the need for social workers. In SASSA offices, there were social workers but they tended to be doing management work rather than actually assisting with the people standing in queues. Even when a person was referred to a social worker, s/he would not be ready to attend to issues immediately. Some of the delays in getting grants may well lie with DSD. The principle behind whether social workers should be moving across into development matters would need to be discussed. She suggested that DSD and SASSA should work together when drawing up their strategic plans. The decision on who received Grants in Aid was of concern and modern rights left her with many questions.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee had agreed that when the presentation was discussed, issues raised by opposition parties in recent debates would also be raised. The first was the issue of corruption and she said that she thought that it would be important for the Committee to carry out oversight visits, particularly to Eastern Cape. The Committee should meet all the top management, in provinces, and the MECs should be a part of the meeting. She added that if the SASSA were to make mistakes, they would also reflect upon the DSD. The Committee had been concerned about the Eastern Cape and she urged DSD and the SASSA to focus on areas where corruption seemed to be happening. The Chief Executive Officer would never be able to tell with certainty how those she appointed would perform. The provincial executives would need to meet with the Premier and the Committee, to explain themselves.
The Chairperson briefly summarised the issues that the Minister had missed before her arrival.
The Chairperson continued that lawyers in the Eastern Cape were suing government, and there were class actions as well. She suspected that in some cases lawyers were actively looking for complaints to pursue, and this was seen particularly in that province. There were allegations that many disability applications were not being processed in time. as mainly identified in the Eastern Cape, and the allegations that so many disabled whose applications were not processed in time. The provincial government needed to take responsibility for explaining these.
She noted that, although she had not been present at the last meeting, Ms Kopane had apparently raised questions and the Committee would have to look deeper into all concerns to satisfy themselves that matters were being properly followed up in debate. She asked for the list read out, so that Members could focus on areas where corruption seemed rife, to find out if it existed indeed and what could be done. She asked for SASSA's comment on these proposals.
Ms Petersen noted that Quarter 3 showed a reduction in litigation, as displayed on slide 26. However, there were a lot of grant matters, similar to the challenges that SASSA had had with the Appeals Tribunal. Most of the cases were in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal. SASSA was prepared to write a comprehensive report on what the outcomes were. She said that SASSA would be continuing to look into those touting for work, particularly in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal.
The Chairperson requested that the Director General of the DSD comment at this point. The Committee was suggesting that there was nothing stopping matters being taken up in a particular province, when certain issues seemed to be very prevalent - like people going to the same bank on the same day to collect money, or lawyers questioning those in the queues. She firmly believed that SASSA was needed and played a real role.
Mr Thokozani Magwaza, Acting Director General, Department of Social Development, said that DSD would be having a workshop with the Heads of Department, and that SASSA was also to be at the workshop.
He confirmed that DSD was currently busy with appointments of people for the inspectorate, and believed that it would play a major role in going deeper into these investigations. When there was a rejection because a person did not qualify, delays and appeals would happen, and that allowed lawyers into that space. Now, matters were being scanned, and if there was a rejection in the provincial offices, it would move on straight to the appeals process, taking far less time.
He agreed that some of the litigation had been around for a while, and this would be discussed with SASSA. He was not quite sure what the provincial executives would be able to do but he would be prepared to discuss this with the Committee. Lawyers were trained to look for loopholes. However, the provinces should not have systems with loopholes different to those of the national Department. Lawyers targeted KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape simply because there were more beneficiaries in these areas. He suggested that he and SASSA discuss what was needed and report back to the next meeting.
The Chairperson said the report should be limited to appeals. She said she had received a letter from the East London office, about forensic investigations, and it would be important to get closer on that. She was aware of how much SASSA had improved. However, the Committee must go to the areas where there was smoke, and check for fire.
The Chairperson said that other countries wanted to copy South Africa because it was doing well. That was why people from Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland were coming here and accessing grants that they could not get in their home countries.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee would also need to look on what SASSA was using the grant money for. She called for answers if money was being misused. There were elections due next year, and it was generally agreed that there was poverty, and prices were high, so there was more to be gained from food parcels. Increases in petrol prices raised food prices too. However, if there was misuse and abuse of this opportunity, the Chairperson said that the DSD must be frank and open, and deal with the problems. The two entities must be clear in what they were to do, and involve the Committee, so that the political administration in Eastern Cape was supportive too.
Ms Wilson stated that she could produce numerous affidavits of people in Limpopo who were visited, door to door and told that if they did not vote for the ruling party they would lose their grants. This needed to be addressed. When it came to elections or by-elections, people were promised a food parcel only if they voted for the ruling party. People did not understand how to separate government from the ruling party. The ANC was not "the government" and there was a constitutional right to grants. She appealed to the Minister to make sure that this was stopped.
The Chairperson said that she did not think anyone needed to be emotional in the meeting but reserve that for debates in the House. Everyone needed to open up for full engagement to address the issues. Members should not be saying that one party was or was not doing something - the same happened in Western Cape, where people complained that it was only DA supporters who got expanded public works opportunities, although in the absence of proof nobody could say if that was true. She was not getting the sense that it was DSD or SASSA officials who were making these claims to the individuals door to door. This was why it was very important to clearly separate the policy of the ruling party and the policy of government.
Ms Wilson wanted to clarify that she was not pointing fingers at officials from the DSD, or social workers, or SASSA. Representatives on the ground were doing this, but the point was that people did not know the difference between political representatives and government representatives.
The Chairperson said that there was now more clarity. She wanted to finalise, in this meeting, whether the DSD was using food parcels to buy votes. She called for constructive debate and said if something was wrong the Committee should take corrective action .
Ms Malgas drew a distinction between oral allegations, and those supported with affidavits and felt that the latter must go to the Chairperson, and Members should then be able to hear or read the affidavits to look further into whether complaints were well founded.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) stated that the Committee Members should not drag this debate down to a ‘he said, she said’ type of exchange, or a political debate. If, during campaigning for local government elections, any MP were to see this happening it would be his or her duty, no matter what political party they supported, to document and take photos and report the matter to Parliament. If a food parcel was misused or turned into a threat by anyone, that evidence must be brought to Parliament and discussed in a mature manner. Another responsibility would be to recommend to the Minister that proper systems would be in place,to ensure that food was used for whom it was meant. Nobody in this Committee was using the opportunity to point fingers at other parties about what happened in their provinces, but everyone should be worried about such allegations.
The Chairperson would allow the Minister to respond on this if she wished, and she pointed out that the Minister should be permitted to speak as an MP, although the Committee would not be expecting her to defend or dispute allegations. All recommendations would be put into the Committee report that would detail what matters had been addressed.
Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) cautioned that the Members should not find themselves engaging in cheap politicking. She said she raised this matter with SASSA in a previous meeting, before the budget vote. SASSA clarified to all members when and how it would issue food parcels. In her constituency, Bloemfontein, where there were no by -elections pending, people were being handed food parcels, but that was not linked to the by-elections. Whilst it was necessary to guard against misuse close to elections, it must be remembered that food parcels were given throughout the year to those who needed them.
The Chairperson noted that there were pleas for SASSA to assist, because people experienced hunger daily. The SASSA was not the ANC, and did not report to the ANC but to Members. It could not be that SASSA asked for political membership. The Chairperson did not agree with Ms Tsoleli that the programmes would need to be suspended, and the Committee needed to get rid of the perception that food parcels would not be given for reasons linked to elections. There would be reason to worry if the point was raised continuously.
Ms Abrahams said that no matter of any political affiliations, if a needy family was found, they should be referred to SASSA.
Ms Bathibile Dlamini, Minister of Social Development, stated that the issue of social relief of distress was a double-edged sword. This was because, firstly, MPS used social development programmes to advertise themselves. There were instances where those from the Department had taken photographs. DSD vests are yellow but in some places people were only wearing t-shirts, and these people were told to leave. She said that poverty did not have eyes, so social development must not have eyes; everyone must be treated equally.
She said that she did have evidence of where political parties used ICROP to advertise themselves. ICROP was a programme involving DSD, DHA and SA Police Services. She said if she were malicious she would fire the officials who did this, but everyone knew that the election phase was going to pass, those officials also had families and they may have been afraid of their own family situation. She said that it was necessary to understand the whole situation and all dynamics that happened within the sector.
She noted that on elections day in Hlopwe, she was called by a radio station who wanted to know if SASSA was distributing food parcels. She spoke to the MEC who said the province was not distributing food parcels. However, at the command centre where elections were being run, it was found that an official of DSD had brought a truck with food parcels, which were offloaded in the constituency office of one of the ANC members. That official was instructed to take back the truck. That was a trap that was able to be foiled.
The Minister noted that when there was flooding, the Office of the Mayor would instruct various companies to provide affected families with help. The Department would be invoiced. This was not corruption. She said it was necessary to do more research.
The Minister wanted to raise the issue of the Special Investigating Unit. DSD had been paying SIU R3.5 million on a monthly basis for doing investigative work. SIU had reported more than R300 million that was squandered, and had made those responsible acknowledge that. The Department, not SIU, would be following up. Some of the people on the register had passed on. Those followed to date had been ordinary people, but those who were particularly rich had not been. That in itself, sounded very skewed, because those that were rich should repay government. She said it would be necessary to wait for all the books to be balanced before taking this further. The process had been started with former Minister Zola Skweyiya, and the DSD was not running away from the process, but wanted it to be fully completed.
The Minster said that she had visited different areas. Social facilitation would be done for one to two weeks. In these places, it would take more than food parcels to change the minds of the people, if they did not want to vote a certain way. It was trying to address poverty and malnutrition. Information used came from the Department of Health and Statistics SA. She knew that it is Members' responsibility to hold the department accountable. When work is done, DSD need to be able to explain why it was done. She asserted that the DSD had visited strongholds of UDM, DA, and IFP. It worked with women and children. The Department had been to areas like Marikana, where nobody else wanted to visit, but Cabinet and DSD took the decision to work in these. She stressed that the Department had never sent officials to make these allegations and if there were affidavits, she would like them to be sent to the DSD.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister for her response and said that sometimes people were not given the opportunity for response on TV, so that only one side of the story was heard. Therefore, when "at home" in the Committee, all Members should be able to understand each other without getting angry. Even in apartheid times, social workers were understood as people who helped, and they might even have carried food with them to be able to act timeously in times of emergency. She believed that bureaucracy would kill this country. When a person had not had food for 14 days, he must first go and apply, and then there was a long process before food can be given to that person. Anyone should be able to feel that he could approach a Minister, who would assist. Hostility caused people to starve for fear of being accused of being bribed. The Committee must help change the mindset of thinking that there were always ulterior motives. In Marikana, people were not happy with any of the political parties, but were concerned that their issues should be addressed.
Ms Van der Merwe said that South Africa had a large proportion of the population living in poverty. Delivery of food parcels was therefore, an important part of what government should do. No one was saying that should not be done, and Ms van der Merwe thanked the Minister for her interventions. All that was being said was that food parcels should not be used by any political party as political tools. She did not want to be misunderstood. The delivery of food parcels was essential and good work. The Minister was also doing good work in finding people who were misusing SASSA logos or clothing. Using food parcels for the wrong reasons must just be guarded against, and if there was evidence of it, it should be brought to the Committee to be dealt with.
Ms Wilson requested that if any member of the DA was using grants or food parcels in the wrong way, she would want the evidence. Her party would certainly not permit that, and would lay charges if it happened. With regard to invoices being sent by City of Cape Town, without explanation of the amounts, she requested copies of the correspondence with the Mayor so that if there was a problem she, as MP, could take it up and correct it.
The Chairperson said that Members would take a resolution as to whether things should be investigated. If there were weaknesses in the systems, Members should strengthen these.
Ms Tsoleli commended SASSA and DSD, because the information released by Stats SA put SASSA and DSD in a good light in terms of fighting poverty in South Africa. She said they should keep doing what they are doing, distributing food parcels and fighting poverty.
The Chairperson said that where Stats SA pointed to a particular area that was poverty stricken or struggled with autism, then the matter will be taken straight to that particular area. When at war against poverty, everyone was supposed to be supporting each other to move forward. Social cohesion was needed; a society that trusts each other and it was the mandate of the Department to promote that. The Eastern Cape matter must be resolved.
She noted that the Chief Whip could report that the Committee had dealt with this matter. The Content Advisor must ensure that the Committee Report must actually reflect that there was progress in this Committee, and the matters should not have to be raised in the annual report.
The Chairperson stated that anyone could come to the Chairperson's office, everyone could have an open door policy, to discuss anything that still needed to be discussed. The Chairperson knew that there still needed to be discussion regarding the drug abuse issues and how the Committee would approach that.
Questions arising from DSD Third Quarter 2014/15 report
Ms Wilson stated that she would give written questions as she had to leave for another meeting.
Ms van der Merwe also left to attend another Portfolio Committee meeting.
Ms Malgas said that she had gone through the finances and she felt that they were all in order. This was the 3rd quarter report, and she suggested that the 4th quarter report be awaited. The work of DSD and SASSA appeared to be correlating well.
The Chairperson noted that when looking at the annual report, the Committee would interrogate and be critical, and it would be easier to deal with that after going through all the quarterly reports.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee would be dealing with two Bills referred to the Committee, and it was necessary for Members to deal with those before going to elections. When the Department presented, it would not be new information.
She noted that the way of managing the Portfolio Committee had changed, and there were structures that dealt with specific things to manage processes better. Technical work was distinguished from political work. but rather it would be information seeking, so the committee can analyse the bills. The ills were receive officially, and the committee would take that forward.
There had been transformation in managing the Portfolio Committee, so there was structures that deal with specific things. Now the committee was able to manage the processes properly, Technical work is not political work.
The Committee had been hoping to do a study tour but Parliament ruled that this would not happen and that Members would need to concentrate on internal matters. However, that was not entirely finalized and it may still do that after elections.
The Committee Secretary reminded Members that a workshop was scheduled with the DSD, involving also the Heads of the Provincial Departments. A date of 24 and 25 June, in Stellenbosch, had been noted. Information would be forwarded to the Department before the end of the business day; she was just awaiting approval by the House Chair.
The week of 21 July to 30 July was allocated for oversight visits. The Committee would identify which provinces and what the focus areas would be.
Ms Malgas said that the Social Development report was adopted in Parliament yesterday, because all the reports were adopted. The vote would determine whether the budget would be accepted by opposition parties. She noted that Members must prepare themselves for declarations.
The Chairperson stated that the social development report was complete. This budget was not part of the declarations.
She noted that the Committee had been invited to hold a joint sitting with the Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development. Any business of this Committee could be shifted so that the day of the joint sitting could be freed up. It was important that it try to attend, because social development was a coordinator, especially of outcome 13. The Committee would be able to assist with oversight, especially on issues that the Minister of Social Development is responsible for. Other links might also be useful.
The meeting was adjourned.