South African Social Security Agency 2014/15 Annual Report; Draft anti-Trafficking regulations: Department of Social Development briefing

NCOP Health and Social Services

16 February 2016
Chairperson: Ms L Dlamini (ANC; Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

[Note: South African Social Security Agency 2014/15 Annual Report [358MB] email info@pmg.org.za]

The Department of Social Development (DSD) briefed the Select Committee on the draft Regulations and directives framed in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act no 7 of 2013. The presentation was a formality as the 60 day period for Parliament to comment had lapsed, and therefore the regulations were deemed to be already in force, and DSD was required to act on them. All parties except the EFF indicated their approval of the regulations. DSD provided insight into the highly sophisticated nature of human trafficking and the types of people targeted. The Department carries out victim assessments and creates an Individual Development Plan for each victim, after issuing a Letter of Proclamation to the effect that the person is recognised as a victim of trafficking. The IDP is made up of a nine week programme, where DSD is mandated to provide safe care and rehabilitation to victims. Currently, this occurs at 30 facilities in all nine provinces. Efforts to combat human trafficking holistically are coordinated by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. DSD deals only with victims and liaises with the SA Police Service, the Departments of Justice and Home Affairs in relation to prosecution and repatriation. DSD runs a series of community awareness campaigns in June, September and October in particular and explained how it attempts to link in with other programmes. The safe facilities were explained and DSD noted that although most focused on women and children, who were most often trafficked, it was having to consider opening up facilities to men and to young boys who were trafficked for child pornography purposes.  
Several Members of the Committee said that they were still not satisfied with the awareness campaign efforts, stating that previous campaigns such as the 16 Days of Activism had not been working well in the provinces. They wanted a report that outlined more creative ideas to tackle the issues. They asked for an idea of how long it would take to address the trauma experienced by those trafficked and what process was followed to return victims to their home countries. The role of community involvement was highlighted. Members asked if ukuthwala practices were categorised as trafficking and pointed out the problems of child trafficking and murders to use the body parts of children as muti. Members questioned how effective attempts to address the problem were, given the sheer size of the industry and said that they would like to know where the centres were to visit them. They questioned the costs of the computer upgrades, total budget and total expenditure for the year, and wanted more detail on the amounts paid over by the Criminal Asset Recovery Account. The DSD was requested to report on outstanding questions in writing.  

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) briefed the Committee on its annual report. The Chairperson noted that the targets outlined did not appear to match those mentioned in the previous report and wanted a more detailed explanation in writing also in relation to points raised. SASSA noted that it had received an unqualified audit but explained to the Committee why it had not managed to achieve a completely clean audit. The concerns of the Auditor General related to misclassification of  maintenance work on a leased property and confusion around the classification of the R316 million rand court case brought by Corruption Watch – since subject to a National Treasury ruling. The SASSA officials explained the targets with specific reference to time of processing grant lapses, distribution across the provinces, the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grants and their unpredictable nature, the Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programme (ICROP) that aimed to service children, the mobile offices and office facilities, and the impact of the Constitutional Court challenge relating to the award of a tender to CPS for outsourcing the payment service. A Ministerial Advisory Committee Report on the payment system was yet to be unpacked and understood in detail. SASSA was considering a total replacement of its old  ICT systems, despite the fact that it has been updated annually. Overall, SASSA underspend by 3% although some line items were over-spent but this was allowed because it had a surplus and because the spending was on items such as transport that would enhance the work of SASSA. SASSA over-achieved on most of its targets. It did not reach its target of 4% disabled employment, with a figure still at 1.1%.

The Committee requested clarity on targets and why the Committee was not notified when targets were adjusted. The Committee was concerned as to why more fraud cases were not prosecuted by SAPS, and felt that despite the fact that it was taking internal steps, the matters were serious and warranted serious sanctions. Members raised their concerns about the suspicion that SASSA had been noted, on two occasions to be distributing food parcels and packs during by-election and voter registration time and there was a perception that there was a political motive, which the Committee resolved must be checked by SASSA providing a full report of expenditure over the last three years to check spikes and drops in spending.  They questioned the distribution of grants and vacant posts that compromised services offered, commented that they were not satisfied with the equity figures generally, asked about the reasons for lapses of grants, and how SASSA was dealing with loan sharks targeting beneficiaries.

 

Meeting report

Regulations and Directives under the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act No 7 of 2013:  Department of Social Development (DSD) briefing
The Chairperson noted the apologies of Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini.

Ms Conny Nxumalo, Deputy Director General: Welfare Services, Department of Social Development presented the draft Regulations and directives in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act No  7 of 2013 (the Trafficking Act), as well as the progress made by DSD relating to the Trafficking Act . She introduced her colleague Mr Buti Kulwane, who is directly responsible for the human trafficking department in DSD. She reminded the Committee that DSD was obliged to monitor the legislation, as guided by section 43 (3) of the Trafficking Act , and must report on progress. She reminded Members that the Trafficking Act regulations were tabled in Parliament on 4 June 2015 and was automatically deemed approved by Parliament because the 60 day period for Parliament to approve the regulations had lapsed before Parliament could comment. South Africa's signature to international agreements meant that it must pass and abide by this national legislation. It gives effect to the UN protocol, aiming to prevent, suppress and punish human trafficking, especially of women and children. It is also planned to supplement the UN Convention against Trans-national Organised Crime.

Ms Nxumalo stated that human trafficking is hidden in its nature, and it is therefore difficult to identify victims using normal identification methods. It is therefore very important to have a comprehensive understanding of the methods of mobilisation, implementation, processes and the subject matter to be able to intervene properly. This Act was the first piece of legislation that addressed the needs of the victims. It addressed Victim Empowerment programmes (VEPs) and it set up measures to protect and serve victims in dedicated facilities. The DSD has developed a policy frame work, called the Quality Trafficking Persons Framework based on this Act. The policy framework seeks to regulate the procedures with which social service providers, organisations and institutions need to comply. It goes further to address the broad compliance and non-compliance issues of management in the organisations.

Ms Nxumalo explained the nature and the situation of the human trafficking. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNOCD) Local Trafficking in Persons Report, which was published in 2012, basically states that trafficking in persons is widespread across the world. The UN report and a report by Molo Songolo stated that Africa is predominantly viewed as a source for human trafficking victims. Molo Songolo also stated that it is viewed favourably for both the transit and as a destination for trafficking persons. Ms Nxumalo evidenced a third report supporting that women and children are often victims, and whilst men are also trafficked, this happens to a lesser degree. The UN produced a global report indicating that the most common form of trafficking is sexual exploitation. Ms Nxumalo was shocked to say that there is evidence of women trafficking other women in countries around the world, including South Africa. The report mentions that 80% of forced labour victims are not detected and 20% of forced labour victims are found to be children. The report shows that almost 800  000 people are trafficked across the US border, annually, and millions more within their national borders.

A study done specifically on South Africa found evidence of human trafficking in both rural areas and informal settlements, in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Durban. Girls and young women predominantly are trafficked, but boys under 18 are also lured into pornography. Older men and boys are recruited into farm work, which is very difficult to detect. Child headed households, undocumented people and poor people living in rural areas or informal settlements are especially vulnerable to human trafficking. The report also states that children are being trafficked for their body parts, especially in Limpopo.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, within the constitutional framework, coordinates the efforts between the different government departments to ensure implementation. Full implementation of the Trafficking Act commenced on 9 August 2015, following proclamation by the Office of the State President on 7 August 2015. The President announced that all the sections of the Trafficking Act , except section 15, 16, and 81(2)(b) (addressing the issuing of visitors' visas by Department of Home Affairs (DHA) South Africa's international agreements, enable prosecution within the provisions of the Constitution, and substantiate prevention efforts and protection services for both suspects and victims. The legislation aims to ensure that there are effective enforcement methods and proper coordination between stakeholders. The legislation is specific to the role of DSD, but other government departments that are implementing this legislation are the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, South African Police Service (SAPS), Department of Labour and the Department of Home Affairs, as well as the country as a whole needing to comply with the international conventions.

DSD is mandated to provide temporary safe care and protection for the victims, ensuring the quality of the organisations providing these services to the victims. DSD is responsible for the identification of victims and is therefore authorised to do assessments in order to issue a Letter of Proclamation. DSD has developed criteria that are used to determine whether a person is a victim of human trafficking.  The Letter of Proclamation is used to certify that the person is a victim of human trafficking. DSD is also expected to report on the services it provides and the data that it collects. DSD has developed norms and standards that are embedded in the legislation to ensure the quality of services. Finally, DSD conducts quality assurance and aids development of the services, wherever problems arise. DSD is expected to issue each victim with an Individual Development Plan (IDP) which is nonetheless also aligned with norms and standards, because each victim has unique circumstances and needs. DSD is also expected to table directives.

DSD is taking on broad repatriation of both domestic and foreign victims within the social development planning sphere. Welfare Services within DSD deals with International Social Services to coordinate repatriation of victims between international departments. Trade relations also impact on the repatriation efforts.

Section 43(3) of the Trafficking Act mandates DSD to make recommendations in two specific areas. DSD is expected to regulate the manner in which victims of trafficking are to be assessed. The Letters of Proclamation are issued by the provincial heads of DSD. DSD has regulated the manner in which the provincial heads may withdraw the letter, if new information warrants a withdrawal.  The victim may launch an appeal against the provincial head in this instance. The regulations provide guidance to the MEC of Social Development in the provinces, as to how to deal with an appeal. DSD is further mandated to regulate the system of accreditation of organisations that provide services and basic programmes to victims of trafficking. The norms and standards are part of these regulations. DSD has also regulated how victims can apply for financial aid within the services offered to victims of trafficking. Finally, DSD regulates the manner in which victims are to be transferred from social development programmes to the DHA, and how they are returned back to their countries of origin or are put in contact with support from the places where they were trafficked.

DSD tabled directives issued in terms of section 44(6) of the Trafficking Act . This section mandates the Director General of DSD to issue directives to guide service providers on how they should help victims. These directives are necessary because human trafficking is a highly traumatised, highly sophisticated crime. The directives provide for the methods by which victims of trafficking must be identified. They detail how a victim should be interviewed to be able to obtain the required information, noting that particular sensitivity is required when interviewing children. The areas of the Trafficking Act that deal with child victims are allied to the provisions of the Children’s Act. The directives also provide guidance on the manner in which to refer victims from DSD facilities to other sectors such as social health care and psychological services.

Section 44(11) provides national instructions for directives on disciplinary steps to be taken against SAPS officials, prosecutors or other service practitioners who fail to comply with any duty imposed in the directives under this Act, or with any national instructions or directives.

DSD started its work, assisted by international organisations, against human trafficking in 2010, in order to protect children during the FIFA Soccer World Cup, at a time when there was not yet any South Africans legislation on human trafficking. DSD is establishing an electronic data collection system to record best practice and principles (BPP) international arrangements. Once the system is finalised each province will be trained on how to use the system.

Section 14 requires DSD to remove some of the data collection system which had been finalised by 2013 because of legislation changes. This was necessary because work that fell within the bounds of the Trafficking Act had already begun. Section 44(6) directives were finalised in July 2014 and submitted to Parliament on 4 June 2015.

Section 36(1), (2) and (3) requires DSD to develop broad models to provide safe care in the form of accommodation, counselling and restoration, education and statistic services or education by government. The models guide services that are aligned with the directives of the Trafficking Act.

Section 43(3) conventions were finalised and have been approved, as well as finalising the norms and standards. DSD created a nine week programme accredited by the Sector Education and Training Authority. This is called a Restoration and Healing Programme, and it will ensure the rehabilitation of victims in the DSD shelters.  DSD creates awareness through running a Command Centre including a 24 hour toll free helpline, manned by 48 social workers, and a “please call me” facility helpline. DSD runs the Impi doing People Programme”, a prevention programme that targets children, people with disabilities, older persons and more generally. It is based on feedback from target groups on what they need to do if subjected to any violence, including issues of human trafficking. DSD runs another programme, Bapela, introduced at the beginning of 2015 in order to raise awareness of potentially threatening circumstances in communities. DSD runs annual events where the main programmes are the Everyday Hero and Bapela programmes and the command centre.

More than 300 social workers have been trained since 2010 to be able to be able to understand the human trafficking sector. Due to the high levels of trauma that victims experience, DSD only uses the most experienced social workers in the human trafficking field. Ms Nxumalo repeated that despite the efforts by DSD, it is difficult to identify victims, because only people who are in the official facilities or come to DSD offices can be assessed. DSD is confident that by the end of 2016 it will have a better picture of human trafficking in South Africa. By then, the electronic data collection system will be operational in all nine provinces. She repeated that whilst the human trafficking shelters are predominantly for women and children,  there are recent cases of men being trafficked; therefore it is necessary for DSD to begin to consider accommodating men in their shelters.

R11 million has been spent on upgrading security at the 30 shelters for human trafficking victims. The money is part of the R20 million given to DSD from Criminal Asset Recovery Account (CARA) in order to improve the shelters aimed at human trafficking victims. Each shelter has the right security, the right programmes and the right skills. Plans have been made to continuously train the human trafficking service providers, but it is conceded that deep improvements are necessary. The DSD aims to ensure that data collection is improved and to continuously ask for more resources from National Treasury.

Discussion
Ms L Zwane (ANC, KwaZulu Natal) asked how long it takes for foreign victims to receive the necessary healing and return to their own country. She asked what would actually happen when a South African is trafficked and what process is followed in order to authenticate that a victim is indeed a South African. She asked how the DSD would ensure that victims receive the necessary skills development and education, and how it satisfied itself that the individual programmes actually worked.

Mr M Khawula (IFP, KwaZulu Natal) stated that community involvement was important therefore he enquired what DSD is doing to inform the communities of their roles. He wanted to know if DSD was categorising ukuthwala as human trafficking?

Ms W Zondi (ANC, KwaZulu Natal) asked for progress on the measures that had been suggested in the past around the prosecution of the perpetrators, and what specifically this Act said about them. She noted that the Committee was aware of children being killed for their body parts because some believed that this would bring wealth. Ms Zondi then mentioned the 200 people trafficked in Engcobo at the expense of church, education and work. She mentioned that provincial interventions were under way but requested clarity on national level efforts to address the problem. She then proceeded to speak in the vernacular about muti-related human trafficking. 

The Chairperson stated that she was not convinced that it was possible yet to effectively combat human trafficking, due to the sheer size of the industry and when seen against the country's current progress. She too stressed the importance of community involvement. The Chairperson asked if DSD had enough resources. She wanted to know more about the standard of the accommodation facilities for the victims, the number of facilities per province and clarity on the criteria used to determine which provinces should have facilities. The Chairperson stated that she would like to visit the facility in her province, Mpumalanga, and asked for the location of all the facilities. She asked why a new ICT system was introduced and why the existing system could not be upgraded, given the cost of a new system. She thought that the education and awareness efforts were not suitable and that she wanted to see a programme that set targets for the work. She enquired about the total budget and total expenditure for the financial year. The Chairperson  encouraged DSD to work closely with municipalities.

The Chairperson noted that a number of questions had been posed and asked that the DSD respond to only some now, but address the remaining issues in a report, and said that she would like to get an assurance that the report would actually be sent.

Ms Nxumalo mentioned that she did not have the budget information with her at present. She noted that the figure of R20 million is over and above the annual budget, and stressed that this was received from CARA to strengthen the programme. For education and awareness targets, DSD is running the Mkonto campaign in all nine provinces, which targets 1003 wards. The ICT system is not a new system, but the upgrades were to certain parts of the existing government KGS system. There are currently 30 facilities that have been upgraded. The decision to upgrade was based on a comparative assessment of the other facilities and NGOs working in the sector, as well as an affordability assessment by government. The upgrades were assisted by the CARA funds and financial assistance from the IMG.

She noted that there are facilities in each province, but for obvious reasons the locations of the facilities are not published in government gazettes, and kept confidential, because human traffickers can follow the victims to the centres. She was willing to provide the information to the Committee Members personally.

Ms Nxumalo says that the DSD noted that more needed to be done in terms of raising awareness but she reiterated the importance of enforcement efforts. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development was is responsible for coordinating all the departments involved, in an effort to ensure a seamless system. Ms Nxumalo was convinced that drug abuse and human trafficking are related. She says that DSD has been trying hard to combat human trafficking, but the Department needed to work faster within its limited resources.

She noted that the IOM report emphasises Limpopo and Mpumalanga in its findings. She  acknowledged that the human trafficking issues are prevalent in the Eastern Cape, but she is not sure why the Eastern Cape was not emphasised. An Individual Development Plan (IDP) was the plan developed by the social worker assigned, after the victim assessment. This plan outlines the type of intervention that is to be provided on this particular routine, and contains all of the victim’s information. The social worker will follow the IDP, monitored by the supervisors. She noted that ukuthwala was regarded as a crime in human trafficking. She was aware of the problem of the trafficked children in Engcobo but did not have information on this to hand.

Mr Kulwane stated that DSD uses the 16 Days of Activism programme and other provincially coordinated awareness activities that occur throughout the year to raise more awareness on the scope of the problem. In October, the Trafficked Persons Week is used to encourage provinces to mount awareness activities. In September, the Victim Survivors Week and June Youth Day activities are held. He also said that one case involving ukuthwala was successfully prosecuted in the Western Cape, but he noted that the specific  programme applies when the interaction is between an adult and a child, so that a child is being abducted by an adult. Cases where one adult might consent to be removed by another do not fall within this programme.

Mr Kulwane noted that the repatriation of victims back to their countries of origin usually occurs upon completion of the 9 week programme. This is the average time that a victim spends in a shelter. In some cases the victim wants to assist in the prosecution of the trafficker, and a request to extend the victim’s visa is then processed. In  highly sensitive cases, victims can be placed under witness protection. Repatriation takes place through the immigration system, where DSD will liaise with the international social services. The same process is followed when a South African is trafficked to another country. DSD, with the help of the international social service, assesses the family and community circumstances to ensure that the victim will be safe if returned to their home country. It is sometimes the case that a victim may be trafficked by his/her own family or community. The victim is escorted while in transit, to account for the risk of being re-trafficked. This service used to be provided only for children but now includes adults.

The Chairperson requested a report on the number of victims in the system and the amount of time that a victim spends in the system, and in South Africa. The Chairperson noted that the 16 Days of Activism campaign does not work and is therefore not good enough.

The Chairperson  outlined that voting on the draft Regulations was a formality because the 60 days for Parliament to comment had lapsed.

All the Members indicated their support for the presentation, except Ms L Mathys (EFF, Gauteng) who abstained. .

South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) Annual Report 2015
The Chairperson mentioned, in her opening remarks that the targets outlined in the SASSA presentation on the Annual Report for 2014/15 did not match the targets mentioned in the previous report. The Committee therefore wanted SASSA to comment during the presentation, explaining why the changes occurred and why the Committee was not notified of this. The Chairperson  recognised that the unqualified audit is progress in the correct direction, but the Committee expected SASSA to strive to a completely clean audit, and had hoped that it would have achieved this. Some of the irregularities in your spending were within the control of the organisation. The cost of travelling, for example, seemed excessive.

Ms Virginia Petersen, Chief Executive Officer, SASSA, gave a presentation on the performance of SASSA as evidenced in the Annual Report for the financial year 2014/15.

Ms Petersen said that it is possible to process a grant request within one day, but the official processing time has remained at 21 days because disability grants require input from a doctor. She also provided insight into grant lapses, saying these occur because recipients die, turn 18 years old or disability grants reach their 6 or 12 months limit.

When explaining the distribution of grants per province, Ms Petersen explained that the size of the population affects the number of grants that are being issued. Therefore large provinces like KZN receive the larger proportions of social assistance grants.

SASSA set a target for its Social Relief of Distress grants, (SRD) aiming to service 160 000 receipts, but due to the demand-based nature of this service, the target was far exceeded, and 353 678 SRDs were issued. The declining employment rate has a significant effect on this outcome.

SASSA set out to rectify the problem of almost two million children not being included in the system through the use of their Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programme (ICROP). Research from two years ago showed that under 30% of children were reached, but because of the ICROP programme this has now increased to 51% of children being reached. It was assumed, from a UNICEF report, that the problem only affected rural children, however SASSA realised that the children living in peri-urban communities formed a significant part of the problem. The ICROP and Mikondzo outreach programmes proved very useful in areas with secluded small towns or rural communities. These towns did not benefit from a five-day-a-week office. The comprehensive ICROP service is particularly useful, as the mobile office includes services from DHA and SAPS. The Northern Cape is a good example of this, as well as the Western Cape where there are only 60 local offices.

In addressing the problem of office space, Ms Petersen noted the possibility of collaborating with other government departments. She said that SASSA was situated in most shopping centres but more office space was required and accessing buildings through Department of Public Works (DPW) had proved problematic in the past. Mobile offices are an option and have proved fruitful in the ICROP service.

Ms Petersen noted the Constitutional Court challenge relating to the award of a tender to CPS for  outsourcing the payment service. SASSA put out the tender in the financial year 2014/15 but an award was not made because only three companies applied. In fact the companies that took SASSA to court did not tender, and neither did CPS. The companies who did tender were a mobile provider, a bank and a consortium. SASSA had informed the Court of the current situation and therefore the current tender would run its course to the end of March 2017. Ms Petersen said that the next step in addressing the payment system was for the Ministerial Advisory Committee Report to be unpacked and understood in detail.

SASSA upgrades its ICT system annually, but because this was already an old system SASSA will consider getting a new end-to-end system.

SASSA is vulnerable to attacks on its system. This particularly targets old people. When officials are involved, they are suspended or dismissed and SASSA will aim to have them prosecuted and hopefully convicted and sentenced.  On average it takes three to three and half years for a sentence to be handed down in fraud cases, but the internal disciplinary process is much quicker. SASSA has learnt that there are syndicate bosses within communities and they collude with a SASSA employee. It is often the case that one of the two turns on the other. SASSA handled more litigation cases in the 2014/15 financial year than in the previous year, but the value of money involved in the cases decreased.

Ms Petersen noted that SASSA is struggling to reach its target for employing people with disabilities, which asks that SASSA have 4% disabled people in the workforce. Currently only 1.1% of the workforce are people with disabilities.

SASSA is also struggling to reach the target of paying all suppliers, especially small suppliers, within 30 days.

SASSA’s debt is a burden for the organisation. It includes debt from when grants were issued by provinces, national social development debt, and internal organisational SASSA debt. More work is required and a higher level intervention seems necessary. Every year SASSA sets a target to recover debt and debt to be written-off. In the previous financial year only 12.65% of R257million of social assistance debt was recovered.

Mr Tsakeriwa Chauke, Chief Financial Officer, SASSA, stated that the budget for the 2014/15 financial year was R6.5 billion and that R6.2 billion was spent, resulting in an underspending of 3%. He drew the Committee’s attention to SASSA’s surplus at the beginning of the year, and said that this allowed for more to be spent on items that would increase the productivity of the entity – such as cars. Mr Chauke noted the complication that internal promotion adds to the ability of SASSA to be able to fulfil its responsibilities at all levels. SASSA underspent on its budget due to the increased efficiency of the communication management system, reduction in cash handling fees of distributing grants, office space leases that were yet to be occupied and a reduction in travel and subsistence costs resulting from cost containment measures.

Mr Chauke outlined that the Auditor-General had agreed that SASSA had a good performance report because SASSA had shown improvements in achieving its targets. Two important issues were raised. The fist was the misclassification of leases. There were added expenses that should have been classified as maintenance but were instead classified as a part of the leasing expenditure. This irregularity amounted to about R27 million and the Auditor-General did not look kindly on it. The second issue was related to the court case by Corruption Watch, amounting to R316 million. Initially, SASSA had classified the expense as additional expenditure, but National Treasury, when consulted on the classification matter, disagreed on classifying the item in this way. Last week, National Treasury had ruled that the item should be classified as “auxiliary services” because the rate that SASSA paid was additional to the rate paid in the contract. It also suggested that the item should not be included in the existing contract and should be attached as an addendum. This complication played a significant role in SASSA not achieving a clean audit but instead receiving an unqualified audit with findings.

Mr Chauke pointed out to the Committee the intention of SASSA to improve on the poor turnaround time to finalise financial or possible financial misconduct cases.

Ms Petersen singled out deductions as being the biggest challenge for SASSA. People received grants and they are quickly taken advantage of by insurance companies, municipal officials and fraud syndicates. It was discovered that people are receiving calls, claimed to be from SASSA, offering Christmas gifts in exchange for pin/bank details. Evidence has also been found of child-headed households being sold family insurance policies, or municipal officials not updating electricity meters after pre-paid electricity had been purchased. Recently SASSA discovered a syndicate in the Western Cape who targeted 8 000 people in a pin-related ATM scam. Ms Petersen predicted that SASSA would have to spend a lot time in court in an effort to correct these wrongs. While these investigations were under way, all beneficiaries would be refunded.

Discussion
Ms Zwane expressed concern over the opportunity that the in-sourcing of payment system could allow, for officials to abuse the system through fraud and corruption. Ms Zwane questioned why KZN received a larger portion of the social grants budget but Gauteng received the largest portion of the SRD budget and said that this did not appear to make sense since the population in KZN was larger than that in Gauteng. She questioned whether KZN was under-budgeting or if people were not aware of the SRD opportunity.

Ms Zwane again expressed concern over the number of vacant posts in SASSA as it compromises the services offered. She wanted to know when the posts will be filled.

The Chairperson interjected that she did not want to be quoted out of context and said that she had not said that she was opposed to in-sourcing in principle; instead she wanted to know how SASSA would deal with officials involved in corrupt activities.

Mr C Hattingh (DA, North West)  stated that he was not satisfied by the equity figures in the annual report, it shows that Coloured, Indian and White made up 78%, 77% and 25% of males, respectively; and 80%, 61% and 40% of females. Although there was some progress, this was still not equitable enough. Mr Hattingh also requested more information on how many of the 1 300 reported fraudulent cases were actually reported to SAPS and had an SAPS crime number. He expressed concern over SASSA’s potential corrupt involvement in by-elections. In 2013, SASSA indiscriminately distributed food parcels and blankets in the run up to by-elections. When questioned about this, SASSA promised to continue the same activities in all wards, saying that it was starting this programme purely by chance in the wards that would have by-elections. This happened again, however, when SASSA employees distributed packs containing cash during voter registration on 24 January 2015. Mr Hattingh would like to know how SASSA was regulating aid distribution so that it was not abused for political purposes.

Mr Khawula found it difficult to believe that so many grants had lapsed in one year, and therefore he requested that more detailed reasons be provided for these lapses.

Ms L Mathys (EFF, Gauteng) echoed Mr Hattingh's concern on SASSA involvement around the time of elections, describing it as “borderline electoral fraud”. She said that SASSA was doing well in the reduction in value of fraud cases, but she wanted to know why those found to have been involved were not being criminally prosecuted, and were instead being penalised only with dismissals and suspensions. She suggested that SASSA must engage with the National Prosecuting Authority and SAPS to rectify this matter.  She wanted to know how SASSA set its targets on the number of children that it would reach, and if the target of reaching 30 000 children was based on any statistic. Finally, she wanted to know how staff were incurring debt, and whether this was related to theft, or use of cars, travel and so forth.

Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA, Western Cape) thanked SASSA for addressing the issues that are affecting the Western Province. She asked how was SASSA dealing with loan sharks and whether this was being addressed in its rapid response activities.

The Chairperson noted that SASSA would be provided with the list of questions asked and would like a more detailed report-back by the following Friday, as the Committee would be sitting on Tuesday 23 February.

She commented that the suspicion that social relief was used for political gain is unacceptable because it really compromises government efforts. This could be a timing issue because services should not be stopped during elections, but she did want to see a breakdown of the social relief budget over the last three years. She said that the Committee would be interested to see if there was any correlation between increases in spending and the election dates. She also asked that SASSA report specifically on why it was reporting bigger numbers in almost all of the sub-programmes. The Committee was particularly concerned about the deviation from the targets set for Programme 1.

Ms Petersen replied that there are 1 300 poverty wards in the country, where food insecurity has been identified particularly, and this included areas like Western Cape and Gauteng. SASSA aims to particularly serve people in these poverty wards. It is impossible to provide food grants to all of these wards on a monthly basis, and it would only do that in cases of child malnutrition, and then only for periods of three to six months. The rate of unemployment exacerbates the need for food parcels. SASSA is under great pressure for SRD assistance because people do not understand how they can receive a food parcel one month and not the next. Tauten has a larger SRD budget than KZN, because it is a smaller space with high influxes of people looking for work.

National Treasury has allowed SASSA to overspend this financial year because of its positive bank balance of R1 billion. The money is intended to pay for the shift from out-sourcing to in-sourcing the payment system. She agreed that equity is an issue within SASSA, but the organisation aims to serve people in the language that they are comfortable with, so employment equity at SASSA is related to the location of SASSA offices and the demographic of the SASSA customers. Literacy levels are also a cause for concern when it comes to employment equity.

Ms Renay Ogle, General Manager: Fraud Compliance, SASSA, responded to the questions about fraud prosecution. Out of the 216 cases that have been finalised, 41 cases have been to SAPS. 16 suspects were charged, of whom 13 turned state witness, and then 13 were convicted, of whom two were sentenced to direct incarceration of 15 years each. Also in that same financial year and in fact on the very same day, there were three officials arrested in Mpumalanga, and this case is still in court. In March, the Vos de Rus arrest  occurred, and here two officials were convicted and given direct incarceration of seven years each. In one case in De Aar one of SASSA's former officials as well a security official at that office were convicted and sentenced to four years and three years incarceration, respectively.

She noted that no money has been spent on developing the fraud management system as the development was carried out by SASSA internal ICT staff. SASSA does communicate with SARS, and a Memorandum of Understanding, which is in draft form, has been circulated to all of the Justice Cluster heads. The memorandum seeks greater coordination, cooperation with regard to investigations, prosecution and related activities of the Justice Cluster departments. SASSA had standardised quarterly engagements with all the work force agencies within the SAPS, in NPA, which includes the Asset Forfeiture Unit, with the the Financial intelligence centre, Department of Home Affairs and also the Department of Labour.

The Chairperson  requested that a dashboard be included in the summary report, comparing the three previous years performance and expenditure report.

The meeting was adjourned.


 

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