A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
5 March 2003
BUDGET 2003: BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT
Chairperson: Mr E Saloojee
Document handed out:
Briefing on the 2003/2004 Budget to the Social Development Portfolio Committee
Vote 19: Department of Social Development
Department of Social Development briefed the committee on the 2003/2004 Budget. The extension of the child grant, the need for clarification on details of the extended child grant and the Department's capacity to deliver was discussed.
Department of Social Development on 2003/2004 budget
Mr Pakade, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Social Development highlighted the following areas:
-Strategic overview and policy developments 1999/2000-2002/2003
-Widening the social safety net
Mr Pakade mentioned that the extension of the child grant was to ensure that children stayed in the system as they grew older. The extension would be gazetted by the end of March 2003. Currently, the department was preparing the provinces for the extension and would be holding meetings with the provinces on the 19 March and 20 March 2003.
Improving grant delivery
The department needed to ensure that standardised processes were used for managing finances. Additional finances had been given by Treasury to obtain meaningful information for management purposes. The newly approved national agency, was to focus on auditing provinces, administration of grants, dealing with fraud and giving support to provinces.
One of the critical areas the department was looking at was improving communication between themselves and the people. He said that they were looking at communication in all languages and trying to reach those not reached before.
Changes in budget structure: sub programme level
Mr Pakade proceeded through a number of changes to the six programmes. The National Development Agency had been moved from Programme One to Programme Five as its primary function was not administrative, but development support.
A breakdown of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the departmental budgets for the six programmes was given. A breakdown of conditional grants to provinces for HIV/AIDS, child support and food relief was discussed. Mr Pakade noted that 2003/04 was the final year for the Grant in Kind for Poverty Relief. Pending a government decision next year, it may be phased out in its current form.
Mr M Masutha (ANC) said that he was glad to see that Mr Pakade had alluded to the co-ordination between provincial and national governments with regards to delivery. Were institutional arrangements e being made to increase their capacity for co-ordination? In 1994 there was an interim arrangement between provincial and national government around the allocation of respective responsibilities and said that there appeared to be a need for redesigning the agreement and clearly defining respective responsibilities. He illustrated his point with examples he had experienced with regards to the budget for the aged.
Mr Da Camara (Democratic Party) referred to Programme Four (Welfare Service Transformation). He pointed out that Mr Pakade mentioned that 'Social Crime Prevention and Youth Development' would be implemented by February 2004 but that money had already been allocated to such a programme. He asked what had been done previously now with the allocated money. Why was the increase in this allocation not real but only due to inflation?
With regards to Programme Three (Grant Systems and Administration), Mr Da Camara asked how much of the allocated money was going to the National Agency and how exactly the money was going to be allocated.
Ms C Ramotsamai (ANC) noted that every year the Department outlined the plans for the following year but there was little detail given about the achievements or failures of the previous year. She suggested that in future this should be included in the presentation and that reason should be given for the successes or failures. How had the department had increased access to the disability grant for those in need?
Ms Ramotsamai said that with regards to norms and standards for social security grants, the committee received a document last year which looked very good and gave plans for building infrastructure, co-ordinating other departments and other issues. However she questioned if given the fact that some provinces had no infrastructure at all, the department would be ready to implement its plans and use the allocated budget by 2004.
Her last question referred to Mr Pakade's mention of the phasing out of the Poverty Relief programme. She asked how the department was going to do this and what would replace the programme.
Mr Saloojee referred the questions to the Department representatives.
Mr J Selwin (Department of Social Development) replied that he would deal with the grant administration questions. Post 1994 the National Department was a new one and most of the power was with the provinces. Since then there had been a lot of growth at national level to strengthen the departments capacity to monitor and assist the provinces. He noted that they were no longer at arms length from the provincial departments and that regular meetings were held between the heads of social security and the heads of population development. Provincial departments had indicated that the void between provincial and national level had been much reduced, but he noted it was an ongoing process.
Da Camara's stated that the budget had increased from R79 million to R6.4 billion and this money was being allocated to extend the child support grant. The remainder was to strengthen administration of the grants. The allocation of funds to the National Agency had not been finalised, but was dependant on the form that the Agency takes. The money allocated to the Agency at present was very small and was mainly for the purposes of setting it up.
An additional R20 million had been allocated to upgrading SOCPEN (the current grant payment system) and integrating it with Department of Home Affairs system. He added that they were looking at ways to replace SOCPEN, such as outsourcing and public-private partnerships.
Mr Selwin discussed the accessibility of disability grants. Three to six evaluation panels had been established in different provinces. By August there would be a national standardised assessment tool to improve access to the disability grant. The Health Department had pointed out that doctors were not evenly distributed throughout the provinces but that other health professionals such as occupational therapists were often in a better position to give advice on disability. An easier, standardised application form was being investigated and would probably use Gauteng's form.
Mr Selwin added that they had trained at least half of the relevant staff at Rand Afrikaans University and others on the new details. He emphasised that when the department said they would be ready to implement the new grant allocations by 2004, they were referring to implementing but not reaching all of the output objectives.
Ms T Nwedamutswu (Department of Social Development) elaborated on the phasing out of the Poverty relief Programme. She said that this referred to phasing it out in its current form in the MTEF. Its outcome would be affected by an impact assessment by Treasury. The Department envisioned the currently funded project to be taken over by the provinces and taken in by other projects and departments, which should see Poverty Relief sustainable by the time the department pulled out.
Mr Salojee pointed out that there were many projects not being successfully implemented. He asked that the Department outline how realistic successful implementation was and reiterated Ms Ramotsamai's point about the possibilities of being ready to implement the outlined projects and grants by 2004. He also asked if the money allocated would go back to Treasury if it were not used.
Ms Nwedamutswu replied that Poverty Relief was a process. Until the Impact Assessment had been completed she could not say whether it had been successful but added that as soon as they had the report, they would brief the committee again.
Mr A Theron (Chief Director of Welfare Services, Department of Social Development) replied to Mr Da Camara's question on youth development. He referred to the splitting of the old sub-programmes into specifically designated sub-programmes on youth development as a sign of the Minister's commitment. Mr Theron gave examples of successful piloted youth life centres and residential youth facilities for drug abusers and said that these were to be rolled out across the provinces.
Mr Salojee asked that Mr Theron specify where such projects had been implemented so that the committee members could successfully carry out their oversight role. He said that sometimes when he and other committee members went to look at "successful development projects" they were in fact non functional.
Mr Theron said he would issue the committee with the relevant names and addresses. He gave an example of a project near Winterveld where there was a successful youth employment project. All these projects needed to be linked to a National Youth Strategy.
Mr Pakade said that with regards to the R1.1 billion allocated to grant extension they could not expect the provinces to assume all the responsibility. R1.76 million had been allocated to the provinces to manage and administer the process. He added that every month a cash flow plan was drawn up and the national department released the money quarterly. In the following quarter they looked at what was used and how the amount should be adjusted. He said that 929 000 children were going to be targeted for the first year.
Mr V Madonsela (Acting Director General, Department of Social Development) added that it might be necessary that the department come back to the committee to give them a fuller briefing.
Mr Salojee agreed and said that they would fix a date for another briefing.
Ms Ramotsamai referred to implementation by 2004. She said that where her family comes from it is very rural and the communities do not even have roads. Within this context she queried how the department felt it was ready for implementing its plans by 2004. She said that the committee wanted an accurate, realistic picture of what was possible and for the department to specify where they could not implement as they would like to and why.
Ms Rwexana (ANC) asked the department to give them a clear briefing on exactly how the phasing in of the extension of the child grant would work as the committee members had to take this vital information back to their constituencies. Application forms for grants were often very complicated and not understood by her constituents. How was the department allowed to under spend and what was being done to change this.
Mr Pakade said that other departments were under spending but not Social Development. He noted that the provinces predicted huge overspending and that the amount shown as under spending in the briefing document was due to the department being granted additional money.
Ms S Rajbally (Minority Front) reiterated the need for clear briefing on the extension of the child grant in order to report back to their constituencies. There was a lack of infrastructure at grant pay points. When was this going to be tackled. She asked why the age was seven to eight for year one when seven year olds were already included in the system and she asked why the age was not eight to nine years in year one.
Mr Saloojee requested that the Department draw up a simple pamphlet for MP's as soon as possible so that they could take the necessary information back to the community.
Ms J Chalmers (ANC) said that she was glad to hear about new training for those dealing with grants. She pointed to the instances of people taking the department to court for suspending their grants and the courts awarding in their favour. Why did these instances of suspended payments happen? Would back payments be received once they had been put back on the system.
She also asked if health assessment panels were still going to be used for determining access to disability grants.
Prof L Mbadi (United Democratic Movement) said that it was envisioned that an estimated 500 000 to 1 million additional children were to be registered for the child grant but he questioned how this was possible when so many children did not even have their birth registered. What was being done to tackle this problem? He suggested a mobile Home Affairs office.
Mr Masutha asked how much legislative reform was necessary to affect the changes the department envisioned.
Mr Selwin said that the department was not quite ready to extend the child grant but that over the last month they had assessed the capacity of the staff, infrastructure to handle the registration of approximately 929 000 children. Due to Resolution Seven the department could not hire any more permanent staff, only temporary staff. He said that the department had extended the grant to seven to eight year olds and not to nine year olds, as the system could not cope with that many registrations.
Mr Selwin said that the Department was getting ready for a full-scale media communication programme.
Mr Selwin said that the department had audited the state of the pay points nationwide and had found the majority to be lacking in basic infrastructure. The department was attempting to get people to use banks to get their grants. He said that the department had approached Treasury on the need for decent pay points but they said they were not prepared to fund the building of infrastructure that was to be used twice or three times a month.
Mr Madonsela said that with regard to the extension to seven to eight year olds, children turning seven after 1 April 2003 would remain in the system, those turning seven before April, in the last few months would fill in a reconfirming form.
Ms Ramotsamai and Ms Chalmers said that they had attended a day long briefing by the Department of Environment and Tourism in which the heads of the departments had taken the committee members through all the successes and failures of the department so that they could gain a clear understanding of what was happening within the department and they could get to know the department's staff. They said they had found this very useful and suggested that the Social Development department do the same.
Mr Madonsela said it was a good idea.
Ms X Makasi (ANC) said that with regards to the banks being used as pay points, people were not always happy with this as they had a charge deducted from their grant. They also experienced delays as well as money not arriving. Another point that the department needed to be aware of was that if a young father died, the mothers family could not always get a death certificate from his family in order to have payments of child support transferred to the mother.
The department and committee agreed to another briefing on this issue. Meeting was adjourned.