Department of Social Development on 2014/15 4th quarter performance

Social Development

17 June 2015
Chairperson: Ms R Capa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development provided an appraisal of their five programmes for the final quarter of 2014/15: Administration, Social Assistance, Social Security and Administration, Welfare Service Policy Development and Implementation, and Social Policy and Integrated Service Delivery. The Social Assistance programme was pinpointed by the DSD as the most significant governmental tool for poverty alleviation.

Department officials referred to its cooperative approach, notably with non-profit organisations as well as other governmental departments to achieve its mandate. It stated that 99.4% of the Department's final appropriation had been spent, with an actual spend of R127 856 477 000 which had been proportionally divided between the four quarters, the latest one having received 25% of the final spending in the amount of R 32 270 572 000.

Members expressed a certain satisfaction towards DDS's broadly successful trend of policy implementation. Certain issues were however raised, particularly with regards to the DSD's disproportionate overachieving of targets and to the financial consequences of this phenomenon. Additional enquiries addressed the Department's vacancies, its under-achievement in the training of HIV/AIDS caregivers, its lack of efficiency towards adoption, its weak reporting about timelines and breakdown according to provinces. Questions were asked about the Mikondzo programme, DSD catering and SASSA’s food programme

The Department indicated that most of its over-achievements of targets were not associated with any major cost implications, referring for instance to community mobilisation. It moreover emphasised its inclusion and empowerment of local communities into the different DSD programmes, while it reassured Members of the efficiency and quality of its catering service, despite alleged mismanagement.

SASSA emphasised its ability to provide balanced and healthy meals to the community while simultaneously relying on locals for the production and preparation of the food.

A majority of the Members expressed their satisfaction towards the Department's feedback while urging the delegation to speed up its current efforts, particularly with regards to the filling of its vacancies.

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson underscored the importance for Members of the Committee to not solely focus on the Department’s expenditure, but rather to appraise the highlighted government outcomes according to the criteria of value and efficiency.

Department of Social Development on its 4th quarter performance (January – March 2015)
Mr Thokozani Magwaza, DSD Acting Director General, indicated that the delegation included representatives of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the different officials of the departmental delegation would provide a comprehensive appraisal of the DSD’s performance for the fourth quarter.

The DSD Chief Financial Officer, Mr Clifford Appel, provided a summary and analysis of performance with respect to the implementation of the Ministerial priorities reflected in the DSD Annual Performance Plan (APP).

Mr Appel said that the Department’s strategic priorities were aligned with the Medium Term Strategic Framework 2014-2019, with a specific focus on youth development, social welfare, food security and more broadly on the establishment of substantial systems of social protection underlined by strengthened coordination, integration and planning. He outlined DSD's five programmes: Administration, Social Assistance, Social Security and Administration, Welfare Services Policy Development and Implementation, and Social Policy and Integrated Service Delivery.

The Social Development sector was delivering its services in an environment characterised by high levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality. He said that the social assistance programme remained the most significant governmental tool for poverty alleviation, while the grants were also recognised at the international level by the World Bank to be amongst the best unconditional transfers in the world. The CFO exemplified this claim by referring to the Project Mikondzo described as a collective sector-wide service delivery improvement initiative targeting the most deprived and rural poor municipalities in the country. He concluded his situational overview by acknowledging that although the Department was largely responsible for policy formulation, it also rendered some of its services directly to the public, notably the registration of Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs). It works in collaboration with other governmental branches such as the Department of Basic Education (DBE), the Department of Labour (DOL), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) and institutions outside of government..

With regards to the unaudited expenditure for the financial year 2014/15, Mr Appel stated that 99.4% of the final appropriation had been spent, with an actual spending of R127 856 477 000. The latter expenditure was proportionally divided between the four quarters, the latest one having received 25% of the final spending in the amount of R 32 270 572 000. He further detailed that each one the five programmes had faced only minor deviations, with their spending ratios ranging from 99.41% to 99.99%.

The CFO explained the 0.6% underspending, saying it was mainly due to funded vacancies, with the costs of employee compensation reaching R1 616 million. He pinpointed the appointment of professional fees for the Substance Abuse Treatment Centres (SATC) as the cause of underspending related to goods and services. Out of the R75 million required for the national development of SATCs, only R40 million had been allocated. The latter difficulty was not overcome by the reduction of the centre sizes which only shrunk the costs to R65 million, and thus did not alter the delays in the delivery of substance abuse-linked services. Underspending was related to the low spending on Foster care and Old age social grant, as well as the delayed experienced in the delivering of computer equipment.

Mr Thabani Buthelezi, DSD Chief Director: Strategy, gave greater details about its performance indicators for each programme. Programme 1 Administration, had achieved the production of biannual service delivery monitoring reports, third quarter institutional performance reports and a report on the implementation of Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) for the Social sector. He praised the programme's over-achievement in the fourth quarter, where the target of 35% employees to attend identified skills development programmes had been exceed with 32 out of 80 employees engaging in this process.

Programme 2 Social Assistance had total spending of 99.41%. The programme over-achieved several of its targets for the fourth quarter, notably 3 086 851 000 older persons benefited from Old Age Grants, 326 war veterans benefited from the War Veterans Grant, 11 703 165 children benefited from the Child Social Grant and 113 people benefiting from Grant-in-aid. Iit failed by 2 926 units to reach its target of covering 1 115 589 individuals with disability grants and by 34 111 units to reach the objective of delivering Foster Care Grants to 533 885 children caretakers.

Programme 3 Social Security and Administration had total spending of 99.9%. It adjudicated 79.56% (323 of 406) of appeals within 90 days of receipt whereas the target was 60%.

Programme 4 Welfare Service Policy Development and Implementation had total spending of 95.50%. It reached its targets by monitoring 10 residential facilities including 8 in Kwazulu-Natal and 2 in Gauteng, as well monitoring 17 community based care and support services divided between 8 in Kwazulu-Natal and 9 in Gauteng. It achieved the finalisation of the Early Childhood Development Policy (ECD) that was gazetted for public comments. It failed to reach its target for adoption: 452 cases of adoptions were registered, below the quarterly objective of 495. The Chief Director indicated that 125 cases had not been registered due to faults in the application. If courts were submitting records without faults there would be no deviation.

He described the relative success of Programme 4’s anti-substance abuse campaign. One of these was it capacitated 50 stakeholders on the Act and the Regulations, exceeding the target by 10 units. Victim Empowerment similarly achieved its consolidation of the Draft Bill, notably though a consultative workshop held on 4 and 5 March 2015 with national stakeholders to revise and consolidate the draft Victim Empowerment Support Services Bill, while its regulations had been published in the Government Gazette for public comment on 6 March 2015. The Programme’s focus on youth more than accomplished the target of 1 500 participants in mobilisation programmes with a total of 15 415 youth that participated in the programme. More than half of these individuals were located in Northern Cape. Similarly the Department’s objective of enabling 800 participants to attend skills development programmes was overachieved with 4 648 youth involved in the departmental scheme, 4 115 of whom were located in Gauteng.

Mr Buthelezi emphasised Programme 4’s approach to HIV/AIDS and heterogeneous performance, notably the achievement of reaching 213 917 people through social and behaviour change programmes, as well as training 39 and 540 officials respectively on Community Based Interventions Management Systems (CBIMS) and Ground Breakers (GBs) training to implement social and behaviour change programmes. Certain shortcomings were however accounted for, such as the failure to reach half of the 600 000 persons targeted by the Psychological Support Programmes (PSP) as well as the training of only 435 community caregivers falling short of the quarterly target by 115 units. The programme’s addressing of Children’s Rights and Responsibilities (CRR) was a relative success, relying on the outreach of 10 municipalities through the National Plan of Action for Children (NPAC), on the holding of an awareness campaign in March and on the capacitating of 20 municipalities to implement the Child Friendly Communities Framework (CFCF), divided between Western Cape, Limpopo, Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng. The final subcategory of the Programme 4 addressed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPD) and principally it achieved the coordination of the National Disability Rights Machinery of March 4 to 6.

Programme 5 Social Policy and Integrated Service Delivery had total spending of 99.90%. The policy placed a particular focus on Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs), achieving 15 road shows in 15 local municipalities, the training of 872 NPOs as well as of 157 provincial officials, and a processing rate of 96.9% of received NPO applications. Programme 5 additionally supported community development by profiling 295 communities at a rate 6 times superior to the original target, while it enabled 212 224 people to access food through the community development feeding programme, overachieving the initial objective of 50 000 people. This trend was similarly underscored with the supporting of 3 204 change agents and the reaching of 170 605 people through community mobilisation, overachieving respective targets of 100 change agents and 10 000 people reached.

Mr Buthelezi pinpointed the Zero Hunger and Food for All initiatives as the last policy subset of Programme 5. It had a clear success, notably thought the establishment of 7 food distribution centres, of 5 food depots and of 58 community nutritional development centres. Each one of these developments reached or overachieved its initial target, along with training of 72 cooperatives that scored at a rate five time superior to the initial quarterly objective.

Mr Buthelezi concluded his presentation by arguing that the DSD had witnessed significant improvements during this final quarter of 2014/15, by meeting 62% of the planned target while another 17% were partially met and 21% were not achieved at all. He pointed out that the Department remained unsatisfied with the performances of certain of its service providers, which bore a major responsibility in the underachievement of certain targets. He additionally highlighted that delays had occurred in receiving Cabinet’s approval, resulting in similar delays in the process of policy implementation.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked DSD officials for their presentation and comprehensive feedback. She stated that the Department’s policy was well integrated within the national budget, while it displayed a rigorous alignment between the programmes and their targets.

Ms B Abrahams (ANC) argued that the feedback provided on the matter of disabilities seemed sufficient, yet she asked if the Department had engaged in in-depth consultation on the matter and whether it had received any complaints from the public.

She asked how the DSD had managed to exceed so many of its targets, simplifying her enquiry with Programme 5’s target of supporting of 100 agents which was overachieved by reaching out to 3 204 change agents. She questioned what impact this trend of over-exceeding targets had on the actual DSD budget. With regards to the skills development programme, she enquired into the extent this initiative was incorporated into the DSD and how the providing of skills enabled the Department to fill its many vacancies. She asked for greater detail on the programmes addressing substance abuse, requiring the Department to provide information regarding the provincial breakdown of the initiative.

On Programme 4’s focus on HIV/AIDS, she asked why had DSD significantly failed to achieve its target of training 550 caregivers. She underscored that communities usually asked for these services and expressed consternation at such underachievement. She enquired about the underlying reasons for this high drop-out rate.

Ms S Kopane (DA) asked about DSD expenditure on non-profit institutions, why the first quarter was not associated with any data. She requested greater clarity on the Department’s vacancy rate, which ought to include accurate description of the level of the position and provincial breakdown. She similarly asked DSD to provide additional details with regards to substance abuse treatment, once again including provincial considerations and a precise time frame.

She requested DSD officials justify the recurrent trend of underspending.

With regards to adoptions, she argued that the quarterly target 495 was seemingly very low. She had watched television programmes on the matter, which had highlighted the extensive number of children requiring to be adopted today in the country. Numerous couples were willing to adopt children and yet had failed to do so, on the basis of an excessively complicated process and extensive waiting time periods. She asked what factors influence this target.

She shifted her questioning to SASSA, which she asserted had been riddled with issues of corruption. She asked to what extent had the process of prosecuting officials and recovering funds been achieved.

Ms Kopane concluded by asking the extent to which the Mikondzo programme was relying on regional offices.

Ms H Malgas (ANC) referred to foster care and urged the Department to provide greater details on its challenges and relationship with courts on this matter.

She reminded DSD of the importance of supporting veterans who had fought on behalf of South Africa, contextualising this necessity by asserting that the First World War took place only a century ago.

She referred to Programme 5’s initiative of Zero Hunger and Food for All, and to the establishment of 7 food distribution centres. She urged the DSD to provide greater details on the matter, including the location and size of such infrastructure.

Ms Malgas finally questioned the DSD’s spending effectiveness, asking whether the money had been well spent on the centres for substance abuse.

Response
Mr Mzolisi Toni, DSD Deputy Director-General: Children's Rights and Persons with Disabilities, addressed the matter of targets exceeded and reminded Members that targets were communicated to the Department by provincial governments. Certain of these over-achievements of targets did not have any cost implications, referring for instance to community mobilisation whose expansion did not require greater expenditure by DSD.

The Chairperson interrupted the DDG and emphasised that the matter of target over-achievement required a more extensive clarification. She enquired on what the cost implications were for situations where individuals would take part in a training process that they were not initially budgeted for. She reminded DSD officials of the importance of incorporating locals into their different programmes, for a failure to do so would ultimately backfire on the institution.

Mr Toni argued that the Mikondzo programme was significantly relying on local suppliers, and constantly benefited local communities. This trend of involvement was similarly observable in the training of youth which occurred in a comprehensive manner.

Mr Buthelezi added that officials in charge were always confronted in the case of poor service delivery at any level of the policy implementation scheme.

Mr Appel further addressed the matter of local empowerment, assuring the Committee that DSD had placed a constant emphasis on the matter. He however described the recurrent trend of allocating contracts to members of the local community, who outsourced the process by subcontracting outside the given province where the project is being implemented.

He referred to another shortcoming of the DSD database, in that many people that DSD sought to empower did not have their businesses registered thus hindering their capacity to benefit from the various programmes.

Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) commented that the crucial lack of infrastructure in particularly rural areas could explain the extensive outsourcing of services by local entrepreneurs. She related that numerous constituencies had laid complaints with regards to the Department's catering ability and quality of service. However, she praised the DSD's provision of incentives to local communities to register their businesses which ultimately ought to empower them.

The Chairperson argued that DSD's answers had been of great quality thus far. She expressed her satisfaction towards the DSD's different initiatives, reminding the Department officials of the importance of enhancing their stimulation of rural entrepreneurs to register their business. She emphasised the importance of empowering rural women as core actors of the development processes, which ought to make an increasingly greater use of indigenous methods.

She summarised her perspective on the DSD by highlighting the importance of prioritising the quality of services over their quantity. She referred to the alleged mismanagement of catering, urging DSD to develop certain standards of catering and of dietary intake which would ultimately underline effective service delivery initiatives. She suggested that the crafting of such standards would include considerations of the use of chemicals in the production of food, the impact of different meals on the immune system, the conditions of food storage and the use of genetically modified ingredients amongst others, in order to prioritise an aware and responsible approach to the delivery of catering services. Although the acknowledgement of these matters did not require a total re-conception of the current policy process, they ought to be more systematically and responsibly integrated into DSD's initiatives.

The Chairperson suggested that SASSA could provide the Committee with certain enlightening indications on these matters.

With regards to catering and the provision of food-related services by DSD, Ms Tsoleli raised an additional question. She referred to Programme 5's initiatives of Zero Hunger and Food for All, asking if every structure required by these programmes had been established during the same final quarter. She asked how possible was it that the initial target of establishing 5 community nutritional development centres had been overachieved by the creation of 58 units. She enquired if this over-reaching of objectives had consequences for the funding of these entities, and from where had the funds for such development originated. Furthermore she raised concerns about the quality of these centres in the light of their excessive implementation, thus urging SASSA to provide the Committee with greater details including the specification of the norms in place at these centres.

The Chairperson thanked Ms Tsoleli for her contribution to the discussion, as issues related to health nutrition were of great importance. She asked whether DSD was currently addressing the matter by promoting research.

Mr Magawaza replied that the DSD was unfortunately not equipped with a research section at the present time. He however indicated that DSD would look into this option to enhance its performance. He argued that none of the DSD's entities was delivering any food of poor quality or so-called junk food. Food delivery processes were primarily informed by dieticians, while the meals provided were always diversified. Many Department officials had shared these meals during their visits to the various centres and they had proven to be satisfactory.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at SASSA, Ms Virginia Petersen, described the trend which preceded 2011, when even people benefiting from social grants had died of malnutrition. SASSA had seriously shifted its approach from then onwards, notably as a result of the Minister's incentive, prioritising healthy food and particularly vegetables. SASSA had collected data on the proportions of a balanced meal, while it was forecasting the availability of fresh vegetables to better address the demand. SASSA had omitted to serve any poultry thus far, in order to avoid the various constraints associated with the storage and freshness of this product. SASSA was working hand in hand with the Department of Agriculture while it bore an inclusive stance towards women in the community. She concluded her appraisal of SASSA's service delivery by indicating that the entity was constantly checking the quality of its products notably by referring to sell-by dates.

The Chairperson stated in a contrary manner that SASSA had been reported as providing a relatively poor implementation of its policies at the local level, notably on the basis of its excessive reliance on young managers. She emphasised the importance for the entity to work along a tight internal cooperation, involving higher ranked officials at the local level of service delivery and supervision.

The DDG in charge of integrated community development at the DSD, Mr Peter Netshipale, addressed the nature of the integrated food security programme by highlighting the high levels of cooperation occurring with other departments and particularly the Departments of Trade and Industry, Rural Development, Health and Agriculture. He nonetheless reminded them of how complicated the path was to effectively address the inequalities of the past. He assured the Committee that DSD had recently invested in cold storage equipment to further ensure the quality of the products it delivered. He described the educational consideration of the DSD's approach which constantly cleaned the utensils used in the preparation of meals and prevented people from eating with their bare hands.

Mr Netshipale said that DSD was regularly informing the agricultural sector on what ought to be planted during a given period in order to enhance the effectiveness of the service delivery channel from its earliest phases. He restated DSD's emphasised reliance on local producers, and particularly women.

Mr Toni referred to disabilities, which was currently being addressed by the Department's large consultation processes. DSD would provide them with greater information on the matter on 6 July 2015. Six experts were presently engaged in developing the DSD policy towards disabilities, and DSD would meet with them on the 2 or 3 July 2015.

The Chairperson expressed her lack of agreement about this by arguing that the Deputy Minister was not satisfied with the policy. She reminded Department officials of their duty of accountability to the Committee. She underscored on a different note South Africa's achievements placing the country far ahead from any other African state. She claimed that South Africa often remained quiet at the continental scale for it was already so much more developmentally advanced.

Mr Magwaza intervened with regards to the Chairperson's concern, and stated that DSD would inform the secretariat in order to involved Members of the Committee into the DSD's consultation process, which would culminate in the short term with a meeting on 15 July in Soweto. Ms Abrahams had seen Department officials during the African Union recent meeting in Sandton Johannesburg, yet she was not made aware of the DSD's presence ahead of the meeting. He thus pinpointed the need for greater communication and coordination by DSD in accurately informing the Committee of its different initiatives.

Mr Appel addressed the matter of DSD vacancies, detailing that there were currently 92 of them at the DSD. Filling these positions had proven to be rather challenging, notably for a third of these vacant positions concerned senior management. Many of the highest positions in DSD were not appointed by the different DDGs but by the Minister as a result of the new labour regulations. At the level of lower positions, he similarly described the complicated nature of the recruitment process, including the delays occurring due to verification of any criminal record for each potential employee.

The Chairperson replied that the Committee would shortly urge the Minister to fast track as much as possible DSD's recruitment process. She expressed her satisfaction with regards to DSD's detailing of the various challenges it currently faces, enabling the Committee to engage in the development of alternatives. If Department officials needed the Committee to intervene and exert pressure on provinces' premiers to speed up change, it was willing to do so.

She shared with the Committee that she had seen, only a few streets down from the Parliament, elderly persons selling drugs. Four of them were actively involved in selling illegal substances on a daily basis. She explained how she had tried to buy these drugs to confirm her suspicions, and reported that she had succeeded in doing so. She had also seen on the previous day 13 year old teenagers heavily intoxicated as a result of alcohol consumption. She expressed her deep disappointment that the youth rely on substance abuse to celebrate youth day. In light of this, the Chairperson expressed her concern towards the worsening of the drug situation in South Africa.

The Chairperson restated the importance of detailing precise time lines and to fast track the existing programmes as presented by DSD. She underscored the importance of social development, reminding them of its core role as establishing the premises of the complex eradication of hunger, crime and xenophobia amongst other societal challenges. She argued that the Committee would carry on providing DSD with clear audit reports, as long as it had a significant impact on the lives of people within South Africa.

The meeting was adjourned.

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