Ministerial Task Team on illegal deductions from SASSA bank accounts; Department & SASSA 2016 Annual Performance Plan, with Deputy Minister

Social Development

06 April 2016
Chairperson: Ms R Capa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to consider the findings of the Ministerial Task Team on the illegal deductions from the bank accounts of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), and to be briefed by SASSA and the Department of Social Development on their strategic and annual performance plans.

Although the Department answered some questions concerning the illegal deductions from SASSA bank accounts, it was decided that as the matter was sub judice, the Committee would receive answers to their questions after the court case had been concluded. Members were concerned mostly with how their constituents should report the illegal deductions, and it was emphasised that the Minister hoped that refunds could be given to beneficiaries immediately. However, if affidavits were needed, both SASSA officials or constituency officers could be used as commissioners of oaths, negating the need for queuing at police stations to commission documents.

SASSA reported on how it was in a transition year as the it moved towards in-sourcing the payment of grants to beneficiaries. Concerns were raised over how many pay points had been in the open, without cover, last year and SASSA was working toward having them all beneath roofed structures. The issue of service providers who charged beneficiaries for collecting their grant was also raised, and it was indicated that these providers would not comply with SASSA’s suitability grid once the in-sourcing process had been completed. Members suggested that small local businesses should be prioritised over large national businesses as service providers. SASSA planned to implement electronic queue monitoring to assist with queues. Only 5% of social assistance debt had been paid off or written off, which was a concern. Only R5 million had been recovered during the year, so this issue needs targeted attention. Treasury had cut SASSA’s budget by R150 million, which would affect service delivery, and the Agency was currently in talks with the Treasury to deal with this. Issues raised by the Members included the Agency’s capacity for in-sourcing,

The Chairperson took issue with the Department of Social Development (DS) over the absence of the Deputy Director General for Strategy. The Director-General explained that there had been a change of staff in the Department leading to her absence. The Department was told that they should keep the Committee informed of such changes. Challenges identified by the Department included cooperation with the Department of Basic Education over Early Childhood Development (ECD) activities, and registering adoptions. In the budget, there had been baseline reductions for SASSA, social relief of distress and compensation of employees. These reductions would negatively affect the Department’s operations going forward. However, there had also been an increase in the baseline, mainly around ECD and the substance abuse treatment centres.

 

Issues raised by the MPs included the lack of involvement by cooperatives, or the training of cooperatives, the lack of integration between government departments to effectively deliver on projects, whether government was on target with mainstreaming disability, and the effect of rising food prices on social grants.

 

 

 

 

The Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, joined the Committee midway through the meeting at the conclusion of a Cabinet meeting and made several closing remarks. These covered the Department’s position and objectives on issues such as gender-based violence, the call centre, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, people with disabilities, cooperatives, empowerment of women, and inter-departmental integration.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks

The Chairperson welcomed the guests who had come to observe what this very important Portfolio Committee was doing in addressing the needs of the poor. The Department of Social Development (DSD) delegation was also welcomed. She apologised that the venue was congested, but even though the Committee had booked this meeting in time the competition for accommodation was high because all the committees were currently sitting.

She expressed the Committee’s appreciation for the people of South Africa and civil society coming to observe these proceedings, particularly as they concerned plans. Politicians and Parliament had been worried that committees participated only in oversight, but not in budget and planning. Today the Committee was going to listen to the DSD and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). South Africans could count themselves fortunate that very few countries in the world were using so many funds to address the plight of the poor in the form of social security assistance.

Before the Committee dealt with the agenda, the Chairperson made an apology regarding one of the agenda items. This concerned the presentation by the Ministerial Task Team on illegal deductions from SASSA bank accounts. She had been informed and advised that this matter was sub judice and was not going to be dealt with. She asked that the Director-General explain this further in order that the Committee could get a clear explanation on what the process would be if the Committee was unable to debate the issue.

Ms Lindiwe Ntsabo, Committee Secretary, read out apologies from Ms C Dudley (ACDP) and Ms P Sonti (EFF), and from Ms S Tsoleli (ANC), who would be late.

Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) asked to be released from the Committee after the annual performance presentation, as she was also involved in another sitting committee.

The Chairperson informed the Committee that the Minister had also sent her apologies, as Cabinet was currently sitting.

Mr S Mabilo (ANC) recommended that Members should be reminded that the procedure was that apologies should be written. Ms Van der Merwe should be aware of this.

Presentation by Ministerial Task Team

Mr Thokozani Magwaza, Acting Director-General: DSD, said that the issue of immoral, illegal and unethical deductions from SASSA beneficiaries was currently a thorny point in this country. Was it right for the Committee to discuss it at length when there was a court case? The case would be heard on 26 April. Several cases had been going through the courts concerning the deductions, as service providers had taken the Department to court, and the Department had responded to the interdict. Since there were so many outsiders and a TV camera present, it was not prudent to discuss the deductions. The Department was willing to answer questions from Members, but discussing strategy might be difficult. The strategies in court might be jeopardised.

The Chairperson asked if MPs would like to respond by asking questions immediately. She said that she would not guide the Director-General, as he has a legal background and must use his discretion to answer questions which did not interfere with the sub judice process.

Ms E Wilson (DA) asked a question for clarity. Did this case include the reissuing of bank cards instead of SASSA cards by the service provider, and the cancellation of long-term funeral plans issued in the name of the service provider?

Ms V Mogotsi (ANC) raised a point of order that this issue should be left to the court. The Committee was not doing justice to the issue -- and what if people at this meeting were involved in this case?

The Chairperson agreed with the Department that they could take questions, but must use their wisdom to respond to what they thought would not affect the process. The advisor would make sure that they did not transgress.

Ms B Abrahams (ANC) raised a point of order that the legal advisor should be present. The issue was sub judice and therefore nothing should be discussed.

The Chairperson referred the matter to the advisor.

Mr Mabilo agreed with his colleagues.

Mr Sipho Shezi, Special Advisor to the Ministry of the Department of Social Development, said that the Minister had put a very comprehensive process together to with deal with these issues. The court case was a major part of this - but the issues were interlinked. The nature of the problem was so extensive so all the issues were talking to each other. There should be no perception that the Department or the Ministry was being evasive. An extensive issue was before the court.

The Chairperson asked whether the Advisor could be more specific. Should the Committee abandon this and say nothing at all? What was his advice?

The Advisor replied that maybe this process should be stalled, rather than abandoned. He gave an undertaking that once the court case had taken place, the Minister should be allowed to respond to the issues raised.

The Chairperson declared that the process of asking questions would be suspended.

Ms Van Der Merwe agreed with the legal advisor, and said that the Committee should not be unreasonable. The matter was in the public domain, so her plea was just to ask the legal advisor that the Committee deal with the issue as a matter of urgency once the court case had been concluded. The Committee should abide by legal advice and not ask questions. However she would have liked a time frame for when the Minister would come and address the Committee.

Ms K de Kock (DA) agreed with the legal advice, but her question was not related to the court case. Could the Committee have clarity on exactly what grant beneficiaries should do in the meantime? If a beneficiary saw deductions on a grant now, what should they do, step by step?

Ms H Malgas (ANC) replied that the Committee was pre-empting SASSA’s report. In the last annual report, she had asked the exact same question. As the issue of deductions was sub judice, the Committee had to wait for responses from the Department. All of the Committee Members had issues from constituencies, but they should wait for the SASSA report and leave matters until the court process was finished.

Mr Shezi commented that he did not want to leave issues hanging that appeared to niggle Members. The Minister had spent significant time last week with her MECs on this issue. She had committed SASSA to a new communication process to deal with the issues.

Presentation by South African Social Security Agency (SASSA)

Ms Virginia Petersen, Chief Executive Officer: SASSA, said the primary aim of SASSA was to pay the right social grant to the right person at the right place. SASSA also aimed to move from outsourcing payments to in-sourcing in this transition year.

A summary of the entity’s performance was:

  • SASSA had received an unqualified audit outcome for the 2014/15 financial year;

  • The Agency was at an average of 92% compliance with the payment of service providers within 30 days;

  • An amount of R5 089 690.66 had been recovered from the social assistance debts;

  • 95% of funded positions had been filled by the end of the third quarter;

  • 479 cases of fraud and corruption had been investigated and finalised.

2016/17 Key Priorities and Targets were:

Programme 1: Administration

- Internal Audit:

Internal audit reviews; dealing with the backlog of cases of fraud and corruption; aim to target 100% finalisation of cases.

- Human Capital Management:

95% of funded posts being filled; reviewing human resources (HR); transition year for SASSA, so it was important to capacitate itself for taking over in-sourcing; Minister of Finance has to agree on staff; much work would be done in reviewing the current four step model for grant applications; aim to reduce and streamline system.

- Effective ICT operations

Biometric enrolment would be taken over; procurement of tools and software, and training of staff; critical programme in this financial year; co-sourcing automation was the critical issue to be looked at; last year nearly 4 000 of 9 000 pay points were in the open -- structures under Public Works; 2 700 vendors currently contracted to Cash Payment Services (CPS) to be assessed for suitability; – biometric enrolment was very important for automation; registries were usually old warehouse buildings; need for an automated system in a server with backups; moving from Novell to Microsoft – better systems for efficiency; problems with Eastern Cape on a different system; electronic queue management assisting in regulating waiting time.

- Effective financial management:

Target was a clean audit outcome, but for this year it wants to get a fifth unqualified audit; SASSA aims to pay all suppliers in 30 days (currently at 92%); 5% of social assistance debt written off or paid off; prescription should be dealt with; only about R5 million a year is being recovered, and requires more targeted attention.

Programme 2: Benefits administration and support

- Easing access to social grants for new entrants.

95% of new grants processed within 10 days (old target 21 days); disability grant still takes the longest, because it requires a visit to the doctor; grant application process would be reduced from four to two steps; people do not come in the first year to apply for a child support grant, and should come on to the system early – the earlier they do, the better future outcome.

- Reduction of inclusion and exclusion errors in the social assistance programme

Many children that should get foster care grant; social grant exceptions must be resolved; grants are being paid after the date of death – as SASSA punches in ID information, this should automatically mesh with Home Affairs issues.

- Improving service delivery

The Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programme (ICROP) remained an effective tool in new and emerging areas. Public participation remained one of the key issues, to make people aware of not being exploited.

- Improved management of Regulation 26A

Warning beneficiaries about taking too many policies.

- Insourcing plan

Develop a work package spread -- better to have SASSA’s own experts in the field; look at consolidation of SASSA’s bank accounts, and consider a trust account; should be clear requirements on who could be a SASSA vendor.

- Reduction of inclusion errors in payment system – eliminating beneficiaries who entered the system erroneously.

Migration of data; cleaning up biometric data that has been collected before.

Presenting SASSA’s financial plan, Ms Petersen said it was important for the Committee to know that there had been a R150 m cut by Treasury, resulting in a revised new baseline of R6,9 bn for administration. Key issues affecting the budget were the compensation of employees and cash handling fees (until 31 March this year). SASSA had evolved a surplus of R1.3 billion, and it was important to start spending this year. Treasury was struggling with its own issues. There would not be enough for all of SASSA’s payments, so it was in discussion with Treasury. Expenses from service providers would now be included in SASSA’s budget due to in-sourcing.

Because of SASSA’s footprint, the entity had to be as close to the people as possible. As communities grew that was where SASSA needed to be -- not in the main road, but in the townships, where new communities were emerging.

Discussion

Ms Wilson said she was sorry to hear that the CEO was leaving SASSA – why was she leaving? She said one of the problems was the doctors’ visits for disability grants. SASSA offices insisted that people went to a state doctor. There had been a consistent increase in allocation per economic classification, but the Committee was aware that a lot of people were being brought on board to capacitate SASSA for in-sourcing. Had this been accounted for? In order to avoid outsourcing payments, why w3ar there a large outsourcing payment shown under key costs? She also pointed out the astronomical cost for staff training.

The CEO replied that the operational expenditure (R70 million) could be broken down into courier costs, legal fees, hiring venues, facilities and similar instances. Medical assessments were the highest outsourced cost to SASSA, because in many instances there were not enough state doctors to do the assessments for the amount of people who claimed disability grants, so then SASSA had to contract for the assessment. The other part of this outsourcing cost was for forensic auditing and forensic fraud investigating. As SASSA was a mobile organisation, officials had to travel extensively to visit different provinces and communities.

Ms Van der Merwe said that she was sad to see a passionate CEO leaving. She referred to the visits to doctors needed to get a disability grant, and said that this needed to be looked at quite critically. Rural constituents could not access other doctors, and travel costs were high. With regard to the current illegal and unethical grant deductions – what recourse did people have now? People were told to phone a call centre but phones went unanswered, people who answered were rude, or callers were referred to police stations for affidavits. This was not right for elderly people or those with disabilities. Would there be a dedicated complaints desk to deal with issues?

Mr Themba Matlou, Regional Executive Manager: Operations, SASSA, explained that beneficiaries with current deductions should follow the system that had been put in place. The system was a district resolution mechanism and SASSA had tried by all means to market the system through all forms of media to create understanding for the process. When a beneficiary noticed a deduction, they must report to SASSA. There were help desk officials at pay points. Some issues were referred to the service provider for investigation. Community outreach was taking place to tell beneficiaries of the processes that they should follow. SASSA was currently training officials to follow the process, which was working well so far. There was also a toll free number with a call centre. Going forward SASSA was trying to revamp the call centre system so that it aligned and linked up with the government system.

Ms Dianne Dunkerley, SASSA Executive Manager, commented that with regard to a customer help desk, there was a customer care desk at a local office which dealt with complaints and there was a separate queue for quick issues. It was important to note that SASSA staff members had been designated as commissioners of oath, so applicants did not have to be referred to a police station for sworn statements.

Ms Van der Merwe asked how many SASSA officials had been held criminally liable for fraud in the last year? She referred to the office closed down in Empangeni, and officials arrested in Gugulethu as examples.

Ms Renay Ogle, General Manager: Fraud Compliance, SASSA, said that for the previous two financial years SASSA had reported a number of cases. There had been 41 in 2014/15, and in the 2015/16 year 15 cases had been reported to the SAPS. The Gugulethu matter had been finalised and the five officials had been sentenced to seven years’ each. There was a quarterly meeting of all representatives dealing with these matters, to follow up case dockets. The number of officials implicated in alleged criminal activity in 2014/15 had been 180, and 341 in 2015/16. SASSA had effected a number of dismissals. At the moment, the fraud system could not provide the disaggregated statistics. However, the system had been configured and was currently being tested. SASSA hoped to be able to provide those figures in the next report.

Mr Mabilo asked Ms Ogle about the DA councillor in Cape Town last year who had defrauded SASSA. Could the Committee get feedback on this issue?

The Chairperson asked if this matter was at the Mitchell’s Plain station, and whether it was still sub judice.

Ms Ogle replied that the councillor was in Delft. The matter had been dropped from the court roll but was now back on and still coming before the court, so the matter was sub judice.

Ms Abrahams asked about businesses such as Shoprite who were charging SASSA beneficiaries for collecting their grants in the store.

The CEO replied that with regard to Shoprite and other vendors who were charging, SASSA had just started a project to look at vendors. SASSA was clear that customers/clients should not be paying to draw their money, as there was already a service cost involved. From January 2017, SASSA would not be contracting with vendors who charged once in-sourcing had taken place, and vendors would contract directly with the state.

The Chairperson said that SASSA should consider including small businesses, particularly in rural areas. Currently, SASSA was added to the many customers of big firms in rural areas.

Ms B Masango (DA) referred to the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) benefit. This was a benefit that people had to apply for. How did people get to know about this grant? The people who were benefiting – could one person access all of them the benefits, such as school uniforms, food parcels, cash and vouchers?

Ms Dunkerley replied that qualification for social relief occurred in special types of situations. An applicant qualified for one type of social relief at a time and it could not be given to a family where they were already receiving a social grant, except for school uniforms. It could be given for a period of up to three months or extended to six months, with supporting documentation from a social worker. If they were already waiting for a grant, then they could get social relief until they received the grant. Automation was better able to support these steps.

Ms Masango said that ICROP was in 520 wards. Could Project Mikondzo and ICROP not happen together?

Mr Matlou replied that ICROP and Project Mikondzo meant the same thing, but the magnitude was different.

Ms Masango referred to the disability grant, and said she had recently heard of an 18 year-old who had had a signed letter from the Department and a doctor, stating that she was epileptic but the grant had been stopped.

Ms Dunkerley said that concerning the disability grant, legislation required doctors contracted by the state for a final assessment of disabilities. If confirmed as permanently disabled, this was not always a disability for life but required follow up medicals, except where the doctor said that the person was never going to improve.

The Chairperson reiterated that the Department needed to clarify what people should do about the deductions. This issue must be taken on board with a new communication strategy between Department and service providers.

The Chairperson welcomed Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, Deputy Minister of the Department of Social Development, to the meeting.

The Chairperson asked whether SASSA was able to work with constituency offices about the deductions. Were teams available to work with them to share information?

Mr Matlou replied that this was very possible and SASSA was keen to work with anyone who had information.

The CEO commented that the Minister wanted ICROP to work with the service providers to refund cash as they went, so that there would be no need for an affidavit and all those processes. She was not happy about the amount of time that was being taken for refunds.

Ms Wilson thanked the CEO for this clarity. She said that she was encouraged by this, but could the Committee get a schedule of ICROP or Mikondzo’s visits to constituencies so that MPs could pass this on to their constituents. This could be hugely beneficial to everyone.

Ms Van der Merwe agreed that SASSA had put mechanisms in place but it was important that complaints from constituents should be passed on to a contact number. Did SASSA have dedicated complaints desks?

The Chairperson replied that the Deputy Minister would have a chance to add on to what had been said. She also said that the second question had answered by the presentation of the CEO -- that they were working on streamlining SASSA offices to quickly determine what people were queuing for.

Ms H Malgas (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson that a communication strategy was needed. She commented that different communication procedures occurred in different provinces. Her constituency had been given a different procedure by SASSA.

The Chairperson commented that a partnership between SASSA and constituency offices would enhance the work of SASSA as they were also commissioners of oaths themselves, and they carried their own stamps. People had to wait in long queues at police stations for a commissioner of oaths, so constituency officers of MPs and MPLs who were also commissioners of oaths should be used. SASSA was the only agency that dealt with the most vulnerable. However, what strategy could SASSA employ to deal with such long queues?

The Chairperson concluded that the report had been very informative and had addressed both matters that were outstanding, as well as actually answering the questions that related to deductions.

Presentation by Department of Social Development

Mr Magwaza, Acting Director-General: DSD, presented the Strategic Plan 2015-2020 and Annual Performance Plans for 2016/17. He said the Department’s strategic priorities were:

  • Reforming the social welfare sector and services to deliver better results, with a focus on families

  • Improving the provision of early childhood development. All children should enjoy services and benefits aimed at facilitating access to nutrition, health care, education, social care and safety.

  • Deepening social assistance and extending the scope for social security.

  • Strengthening integrated community development interventions and improving household food and nutrition.

  • Establishing social protection systems to strengthen coordination, integration, planning, monitoring and the evaluation of services.

 

Ms Bongiwe Dumezweni-Ntakumba, Director: DSD continued with the presentation, outlining the Department’s strategic plan and objectives. These were to:

- Strengthen social welfare service delivery through legislative and policy reforms by 2019 through:

A reviewed Social Welfare White Paper and Social Development Act developed; a social welfare financing model; norms and standards published by 2018/19; institutionalised oversight capacity for monitoring of quality standards established by 2018/19;100% of bursars absorbed annually into the sector after completion of studies by 2019; a reviewed dispensation for state-civil society partnerships in the delivery of social welfare and community development services; development of a resourcing strategy for social development services; demand and supply model for social service professionals; legislation on the professionalisation and regulation of social service practitioners; strengthened services for older persons and amendments to the Older Persons Act 2006.

The Chairperson interrupted the presentation to inquire why the Department had not forwarded any apology for the absence of the Deputy Director General (DDG). It was critical for the Committee to receive this information.

The Director-General apologised that he had not raised the issue, as there had been some changes in the Department. The past acting DDG had been replaced by Ms Lumka Oliphant as Acting DDG for Strategy, but she currently had no voice. Ms Dumela was attending another committee in the presidency for social welfare and Dr Roseline September had been sent to represent her.

The Chairperson requested that if a senior executive was new then they should be clearly introduced to the Committee. Also these changes must be communicated earlier, so that everything ran smoothly.

Ms Dumezweni-Ntakumba continued with the presentation of the Department’s strategic plan and objectives, which were to:

. - Reduce the incidences of social crime, substance abuse and facilitate the provision of support services to target groups by 2019 through:

Legislation on victim empowerment support services; implementation of the South African Integrated Programme of Action addressing gender-based violence; implementation of the Victim Empowerment Inter-sectoral Strategy 2014 – 2018; strengthened care and support services to families; implementation of the Integrated Social Crime Prevention Strategy Action Plan; implementation of the Child Justice Act; implementation of the National Anti-Substance Abuse Programme of Action(POA); implementation of the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse Act No 70 of 2008; and implementation of the National Drug Master Plan.

- To promote the empowerment and rights of persons with disabilities through the development and implementation of legislation, policies and programmes through:

A legislative framework to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities; a national disability rights policy developed, and implementation supported; a policy on social welfare services to persons with disabilities developed, and implementation supported; and a disability Inequality Index developed and tracked.

- Strengthen child protection services and improve the quality of Early Childhood Development (ECD) services by 2019 through:

A policy on Early Childhood Development (ECD), which had just been completed; a regulatory framework aligned to the ECD policy; an ECD infrastructure plan; ensuring registered ECD facilities were complying with norms and standards; developing an integrated Human Resource Plan; a comprehensive package of services for children in ECD (nutrition, immunisation, literacy, stimulation).

- Legislative alignment on ECD provision through:

Municipal by-laws; provincial legislation (the Department was currently struggling with this as ECD sits elsewhere); increased access to child care and protection through adoption services; implementation of the Foster Care Project Plan; implementation of the transformation plan for Child and Youth Care Centres (CYCCs); implementation of the guidelines for the registration of Drop-in Centres, in terms of the Children’s Act; strengthened child protection services; a reviewed Children’s Act; and strengthened services to orphans and vulnerable children.

- Extend the provision of social assistance to eligible individuals by 2019 through:

Social grants for eligible individuals in support of SASSA; a 50% increase in Child Support Grant (CSG) value, and 11.4 million children qualifying for access to the grant by 2016/17; social and disaster relief reaching affected individuals in distress timeously.

- An effective and efficient social security system that protects poor and vulnerable people against income poverty by 2019 through:

Policy proposals on the universalisation of older persons’ and child support grants; increasing the value of CSG to orphans and vulnerable children; and policies on chronic conditions to expand social assistance coverage for persons with disability, income support for working age individuals, a guaranteed employment scheme, mandatory cover for retirement, disability and survivor benefits, the inclusion of informal sector workers in social security, and the inclusion of military veterans in social security; a functional inspectorate for social assistance.

- Facilitate and coordinate community development efforts to build vibrant and sustainable communities by 2019 through:

An integrated community development framework and model; regulated and uniform community development practice, enhanced skills and competencies of Community Development Practitioners (CDPs) and Community-based Organisation (CBOs) to facilitate effective community development; vulnerable communities and households profiled; and facilitating community mobilisation and development of community-based plans for social transformation.

- Contribute to poverty eradication and elimination of hunger through support to community-driven programmes and the provision of food and nutrition by:

Facilitating the establishment and support of community income-generating initiatives; supporting households linked to socio-economic opportunities; helping vulnerable households and individuals to access nutritious food through food security programmes.

- Improve the social development sector performance through monitoring and evaluation by 2019 by developing:

A National Integrated Social Protection System (NISPIS), a multi-million rand project which was started last year. A common set of outcomes and systemic indicators and a results-based framework for social protection had been developed. Evaluation studies were also becoming critical for determining policy.

Ms Dumezweni-Ntakumba provided details of the Department’s Annual Performance Plan for 2016/17.

Programme 1 included the development of 18 community care centres across the provinces, strengthening gender responsiveness and reviewing policies, looking at the evaluations of the Older Persons Act, conducting a design evaluation of food and nutrition security programmes, looking at 28 risk-based projects for internal audit, and a human resources plan in line with the NDP to strengthen capacity.

Programme 2 would see the Department continue to target eligible beneficiaries, aiming to ensure that those who needed a grant were able to access it and that processes were streamlined.

Programme 3 required adjudication of 70% of grant appeals within 90 days of receipt, completion of the policy on universalisation of benefits to older persons, completion of a discussion paper on the universalisation of the Child Support Grant, the expansion of funds to vulnerable children, and the Social Development Amendment Bill submitted to Cabinet.

In Programme 4, the key activity for the year was the revision of the White Paper on Social Welfare. The Department would develop a demand and supply model for social services practitioners, approve a recruitment and retention strategy for social service practitioners, award social service scholarships to 1 000 youths, seek approval by Cabinet of the Amendment Bill for the Older Persons Act of 2006, coordinate the implementation of the national Active Aging Programme for Older Persons, align the ECD programme of action and regulatory framework to the ECD policy, review of the ECD infrastructure plan, develop an ECD maintenance and mprovement plan.

Adoption continued to be a challenge but the aim was to register 100% of adoptions received from Children’s Courts with a complete record. The DSD was trying to make sure there were no backlogs. It would develop the sustainability plan of the Isibindi Model, which was aimed to provide services to the most vulnerable children in communities. The plan was for this programme to endure so it was important that issues of sustainability were addressed.

The review of Children’s Act continued. The second amendment to the Children’s Act had been considered by the Portfolio Committee and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) committee.

Development of a child care and protection policy would see implementation of the Child Justice Act. The policy framework on the accreditation of diversion services would lead to legislation on victim empowerment support services. The DSD would finalise consultation on the Bill and submit it to the State Law Advisors (SLA) for certification

National awareness campaigns on human trafficking would be conducted with the aim of raising awareness across the provinces

Another high-level output area covered implementation of the Anti-substance Abuse Plan of Action. Three anti-substance abuse campaigns would be run, along with implementation of the National Drug Master Plan.

Regarding HIV/Aids, the Department would train 300 organisations on psychosocial support programmes, train 400 CBOs on Community-Based Intervention Monitoring Systems (CBIMS), conduct action research on community based care workers. And train 500 implementers on social behaviour change.

The White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (WPRPD) would see the development of the Disability Rights Information Portal Phase 1, and a pilot project on the implementation of the WPRPD.

Youth mobilisation would involve the development of draft guidelines, 1 000 youths attending national youth camps, a review of youth structures guidelines and a draft Social Development youth strategy.

Programme 5 dealt with social policy and integrated service delivery. High level outputs were:

- Research and social policy capacity built through training on social policy in the social development sector. 50 officials would be trained, and one social policy, in collaboration with the relevant director, developed and reviewed.

- Coordinated integrated social protection interventions. This would involve creating 152 263 work opportunities through Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) social sector, 60 Community Works Programme (CWP) sites provided with social sector services, and 450 military veterans’ households participating in EPWP projects.

- Population policy implemented and monitored. The 4th United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) Country Programme would be coordinated and evaluated through the National Coordinating Forum (NCF). Implementation of the national Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (ASRHR) framework strategy would be coordinated and monitored, as would the Inter-ministerial Committee (IMC) for population policy work plan 2016-19

Work on non-profit organisations (NPOs) would focus on improving processes. The Department would try to process applications within two months of receipt. It would conduct NPO national roadshows in 80 local municipalities in order to bring services closer to people. 3 000 emerging NPOs would be trained on governance and compliance with the NPO Act, to reduce the number of non-complying NPOs. Other activities included developing a draft DSD sector financing policy, finalising a partnership model for the state, NPOs and relevant stakeholders, introducing the draft bill on the NPO Act in Parliament, and developing community mobilisation and empowerment guidelines.

The Department airmed to reach 450 wards through community outreach programmes, and develop a framework for linking cooperatives to economic opportunities within the sector. It was committed to ensure that cooperatives were able to access markets, and was developing a framework for women’s empowerment for the social sector. It would facilitate the implementation of an integrated food and nutrition security plan, provide food to 60 000 vulnerable individuals through Community Nutrition and Development Centres (CNDCs), and assess social development sector food nutrition security programmes

Mr Clifford Appel, Chief Financial Officer: DSD, introduced the Budget. He first highlighted the baseline reductions, which were mainly in SASSA, the social relief of distress and the compensation of employees. This would negatively affect the Department’s operations going forward. However, there was also an increase in the baseline, mainly around ECD and the substance abuse treatment centres. The Department had submitted six requests for funding to Treasury last year, but had not been very successful in these requests. Over the period of 2014/15 to 2018/19 there had been an annual baseline increase of 7.9%. The Department had a budget of R148 billion for 2016/17, but 99. 5% was for transfer to social grants, operational costs of SASSA and the NPOs. The major increase was in the Welfare Services Policy programme, which was where the substance abuse programme and ECD were located.

He then detailed the budget and expenditure for each of the five programmes of the Department.

Discussion

The Chairperson thanked the Department for the report. She said it was unfortunate that at this planning stage, the Committee could not focus on what had been presented. Instead it was an opportunity for the Committee to represent their constituents to the Department. She drew attention to the fact that the amount given for grants had become very little, because of the food crisis. How did the Department plan to deal with the rise in prices of staple foods? There was also an issue of equity between urban and rural communities. There was also the glaring problem that if there was no ECD, then there was no nutrition for children who relied on school meals at this age.

Dr Roseline September, Acting Deputy Director-General: Welfare Services, said it was important that the beneficiaries remained at the core of welfare programmes. There were a number of programmes within the Department of Social Development which were talking of alignment and integration with other Departments. A great emphasis was on those ECDs which struggled historically and so had battled to be registered as they did not meet minimum standards.

The Chairperson related how young people were sent to hospitals and treatment centres to deal with drug addiction but when they returned home there was no small-scale care facility to monitor that they complied with arrangements. She asked how the Department would identify individuals for the youth camps. She also shared a story with the Committee of when the Minister went to hand out uniforms and had discovered that children of teaching staff were receiving uniforms earmarked for other needy children. This was not a problem for officials -- this was a social problem. She commented that the government could not throw water into bottomless pits.

The Director-General replied that distribution of school uniforms was a problem because the Department was dealing with cooperatives. The government tried to do well, but people see spaces to get into, no matter what the government did. The Department needed to have a different way of distributing uniforms. The Minister had created a cooperatives’ unit consisting of SASSA officials, the Development Support Group (DSG) and the National Development Agency (NDA). They were attached to the ministry and the Director-General. At present the unit’s focus was on the uniforms. At the beginning, the cooperatives were buying the uniforms and removing the tags, and pretending they had created the uniforms. The unit needed to go to the source and check that they were the genuine article.

Ms Van der Merwe asked whether the aim to absorb 100% of students in social work was possible with the reduced budget. Would this bring the Department closer to its aim of one social worker per ward?

The Director-General replied that it was a controversial and problematic issue. The target was to absorb 100%, and this would not be changed. Right now, the Department was coming up with innovative ways to absorb the students. The provinces were responsible for doing this, so the Department had to keep the target to ensure that the provinces worked on this. The Department planned to reduce the intake of scholarships to try and have the money to employ graduates. He hoped that the Treasury would come to the party in 2018/19.

Ms Van der Merwe commented that the report had made no mention of the “spanking” legislation which asked Cabinet to look at banning corporal punishment in the home.

Dr September replied that the Department had recently had another consultation in the context of the second amendment bill on the issue of corporal discipline (the “spanking legislation”). The Department was now conducting further consultations on the matter, as there was a substantive section dealing with this. The issue was whether the Department could implement this in light of the poor parenting programmes in the Department. The Department was strengthening parent support in the interim through its family support policy. There had been quite a significant swing towards the implementation of this Act from civil society organisations.

The Chairperson raised the issue of substance abuse. Apart from road shows and campaigns, Ms Van Der Merwe asked if there was anything specific the Department was doing for young people affected by the nyaope drug. The presentation had stated that there would be a greater focus on the rights of people with disabilities. But what was happening to departments that did not follow the strategy of employing the target? The statistics were very low in the Department, and this should be tackled.

Mr Mzolisi Toni, Deputy Director General: Children’s Rights and Persons with Disabilities, replied that the Department had elevated the status of disability as a game changer by making sure that the policy was approved by government in terms of the domestication of the UN Conventions on 9 December 2015. Between10 and12 March, the Department had held a disability summit which had begun to engage all the stake holders in this process. In this regard, the Minister of Social Development had set up a Ministerial disability committee, and there was also a presidential working group on disability. These oversight bodies would assist in changing how government dealt with disability. In order to ensure that there was no ambiguity on what was expected from each department, about nine policy directives had been issued in the implementation matrix. The seventh directive dealt with building disability equitable state machinery. In terms of meeting the disability targets, he assured the Committee that the Department was moving in the right direction. One of the obligations that Cabinet expected the Department to do was to submit an annual report on how the Department was mainstreaming disability in government.

The Chairperson commented that there had been no mention of the comprehensive social review that had been mentioned in the State of the Nation Address.

Mr Brenton van Vrede, Acting Deputy Director General, replied that the comprehensive social security review mentioned by the President was included in the Strategic Plan, as it was a long-term plan. Various elements of it were included in the APP -- for example, the universalisation of grants. The comprehensive social security review included five government departments. The Department had fleshed out their role in the APP, and this included the universalisation aspect, an increase in the value of grants for orphans and vulnerable children, and the policies on mandatory retirement and disability, guaranteed employment and informal sector employment.

With regard to the streamlining of adoption services, Ms Van der Merwe said that she knew of a couple where it had taken five months to get a certificate, and that their name did not appear on the register. How would the paper backlog be dealt with?

Dr September replied that she agreed with the concerns about the delays in adoptions. The Department had privatised the register and dealt with a lot of the backlog. Currently they were looking at dealing with a backlog of 30 000. The Department was looking at options to deal with the issues as it was concerned with the impact of the backlog to screening. She invited Ms Van der Merwe to send her an email with the details of the particular case.

Ms B Abrahams (ANC) asked which provinces would benefit with community centres, and where. Who managed the 60 community centre programme sites?

Mr Matlou replied that the community centres were located in three provinces: KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and North-West. The finance had come from the German fund. The centres were built due to the 2008 strategy on orphans and vulnerable children. One centre had been finished and launched in KwaZulu-Natal and the others were still being built. He offered to provide more information on where the centres were.

Ms De Kock asked for clarity on the increases in the old age, disability and child grants. How did the Department calculate the amount and what factors went into it? Could the Department explain their rationale for the universalisation of the child and older persons grant? She asked the Deputy Minister whether this was to make sure fewer people fell through the cracks. When would this be implemented?

Mr Van Vrede replied that the rationale was twofold -- firstly, to ensure that people did not fall through the cracks, and secondly, the equity issue. This realigned the benefits available for elderly people.

Ms De Kock commented that there was a continuous issue about the nature of the targets. It was important that the Department applied their minds when they set targets. They could set a target and meet it, but not make an impact. For example, in relation to social workers, the target was to improve the recruitment and retention strategy. There had already been such a strategy ten years ago, but it did not seem like those recommendations had been implemented. This was analysis paralysis. She would like to see a more concrete target, maybe aligning salaries in NPOs with those of the state. Meeting these particular targets would not see an increase in the number of social workers. Another example was in regard to NPO targets, as there did not seem to be compliance with the NPO increase. It did not seem to address the reasons of why NPOs were non-compliant. Perhaps the Department could elaborate on the NPO bill which the Department would introduce.

Mr Matlou replied that the Department still had a lot of work to do on why NPOs were not complying. A sectional audit had been starting this year to work out where the issues were. The NPO Act would segregate based on the size of organisations, and try to sort out the issue of reporting periods and also the putting at risk those with a lot of money. The NPO Act had been developed in 1997 and different issues were apparent in 2016.

The Chairperson said that the challenges that had been raised include the issue of integration with other Departments, as well as the issue of food security and the rise in food prices.

Mr Matlou replied that he ran community development, and what was seen on the ground was very problematic. The Department, together with other government departments, had developed an integrated plan. The aim was to have one plan for the country -- one problem that could be solved within one monitoring plan -- and also to ensure that it was integrated with other departments. This was to address the issue of hunger and malnutrition. The plan would come to the Cabinet in June. The Department had adopted a strategy which would like to address malnutrition and accessibility to food. The problem was how the poverty alleviation programme could be adapted to deal with food security and malnutrition.

The Director-General commented on the issue of integration. He said that recently the Department, along with others, has been instructed by the President to form a team to look at the strategic plan to be submitted to Cabinet in June on hunger and malnutrition, as Mr Matlou had said. It had been realised that the disintegration that had been taking place was very bad. Everything else started and ended with social development. The Department still had problems with the Department of Basic Education on who was going to take care of five to six-year olds. The departments were trying to close this gap. The DSD had been blamed for creating a welfare state and just giving grants. Now it was trying to investigate where the money had been spent. Big organisations were siphoning the money by charging people when they fetched grants. Small shops in the communities must be used to create employment, and cooperatives to pull people out of cycle of poverty. The Minister had decided to look into three pilot projects in the Free State, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Gauteng had a lot fewer people that were getting grants -- everyone was going there for work, as there was high unemployment.

Mr Van Vrede agreed with the Chairperson that the amount of the grant was very small, but unfortunately the Department was limited by the budget. The value of the grant had been determined many years ago -- the Child Support Grant in 1998, and the others before that. On a year to year basis, the grants were increased by inflation.

The Chairperson interrupted to explain that the Committee was not asking for the grants to be increased, but whether there were any creative ways to deal with food insecurity and high prices due to the drought. Creatives measures were needed so no one went hungry.

Mr Van Vrede replied that the Department was involved in other creative measures, such as creating cooperatives and food security programmes.

Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) was concerned that in some areas like the Eastern Cape, there were no cooperatives, but a PEP shop. What did these areas do?

The Director-General responded that the Department had a campaign run by the cooperatives’ unit which went around the country dealing with the issue of cooperatives. There were many areas where cooperatives did not exist. The unit was trying to coordinate within the provinces and where cooperatives did not exist, women were being trained. However, there was an issue with quality and the real thing had to be done properly.

The Chairperson responded that there was a need to identify poor communities and offer them training through the Department.

The CEO said that if there was no cooperative in an area, SASSA looked to see if linking could take place with other cooperatives. The Minister had asked SASSA and the cooperatives unit to have two quality assessors per province to assist SASSA with finding a good source of links for cooperatives. She commented that a more aggressive stance was needed to get the uniform quality up. If there was no cooperative, the unit must go out to the community and see what kind of skills there were. She suggested that unemployed women who used to work in garment factories should be called up, as these skills were needed. SASSA has been talking to the Treasury about how SASSA may buy and keep quality up, although buying in bulk. This sector dealt with poor people who were currently receiving grants, and they could be linked to an additional income.

Ms Van der Merwe commented that the Department had won an award for the command centre for gender based violence (GBV). She was concerned about the issue of integration, and asked the Department to explain its relationship with the Department of Women in the Presidency. She noted that there had been very little publicity for access to the command centre. Throughout the 16 days of activism campaign of no violence against women and children, the command centre had not been mentioned. This call centre was an important part of the Department’s plan and strategy. Could the Department utilise other platforms, such as the SABC, to publicise it?

The Director-General replied that within the Department, the issue of coordination with the Department of Women was occurring. The number for the GBV command centre was on their banners. The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) also had the number in its end violence campaign. The Department was trying hard to publicise the centre.

The CEO commented on the integration work concerning GBV, and said that SASSA was being contacted during “call more” time (after hours). The Minister had asked SASSA to use the 0800 428 428 line and to make sure that SASSA added staff to the GBV call centre so that it could be more responsive. So she concluded that integration was definitely happening and was assisting SASSA at many levels.

Mr Shezi said that he had a few issues he wished to embellish. One of these concerned the way the Minister had addressed the issue of integration of services. The integration that she was now talking about was emanating from the work that Mikondzo was doing with other departments on the ground. This was one of the qualitative things the Minister had done.

Secondly, the increase in food prices was a real problem, as was the issue of the increase in other related services. The Minister might come back to the Committee asking for support. 70% of grants went towards the purchase of food. Treasury increases had been offset by the increase in food prices.

The third issue relates to what the Minister was doing with the ECD programme. She was looking at the entire value chain of the ECD. Where did it source its food? How did one make sure that this process would empower the local community to provide food to ECDs.

The next issue was corruption and the negation of initiatives by corruption. Social development needed to look at this as a critical issue. Dr September was looking at the problem of retaining social workers and grappling with issues emanating from social work indaba.

Finally, noting the issues that had been raised concerning GBV, the truth of the matter was that the Minister had innovated this programme. It had been so innovative, and the DSD was now just improving the functionality of it and closing the gaps.

The Chairperson invited the Deputy Minister to close the meeting.

The Deputy Minister thanked the Committee for their input and questions. Several issues had not been addressed by the Department, which she would follow-up on.

Regarding gender based violence, all should be aware that the President had introduced shared responsibilities, which fell under the Deputy Minister’s ambit. She confirmed that one of the processes going forward concerned the command centre. The reason why it had won awards was because it was the only call centre which had a call locator so it knew where the caller was and could trace calls. It was the only call centre which was run only by social workers. There were three shifts, 48 at a time, of social workers only. One of the innovations was to ensure that the call centre was accessible to women with various disabilities – for example, deaf women. The Department paid for a number of lines, bearing in mind that this call centre had all the other aspects that call centres should have. Childline was paid for by the Department but did not have geo caller abilities. It was important to have one call centre equipped and able to deal with everything, including design for disabilities.

Concerning advertising the call centre by using different platforms, she said the private sector also had the number in their pamphlets. The DSD could do better, but it was important to confirm where it was. With regard to integration, the centre worked with the Department of Women and the Department of Justice. Wherever the Mikondzo project went, the number was shared with the 6 000 to 10 000 people who were contacted.

On the issue of drug abuse, the Department was on course to meet its targets. One of the centres in Port Elizabeth had been completed and would be launched. The Central Drug Authority was being strengthened. The DSD was also talking with the National Aids Council. It had strengthened these aspects, and interventions were going beyond campaigns. One of the biggest problems the Committee needed to appreciate was that the drugs people used elsewhere were known, but in South Africa people made their own concoctions, such as tik and nyaope. Those that sold the drugs then mixed them so that the manuals were immediately out of date.

The Department has upped its game regarding the drug trade. For the first time South Africa was now pulling together the issues of security-related aspects, drug addiction beyond being a crime, and social aspects. This was a serious challenge. The cheapest drugs were actually the most dangerous and were the ones sold in the poor communities.

Regarding the disability issues, the Deputy Minister asked all Members to ensure they had a copy of the White Paper. Minister Dlamini had ensured the issues in mainstreaming disabilities were acknowledged. Members must look at the implementation matrix. It was very important that it was understood that the annual report intended to ensure that one could pick up which areas of the implementation matrix that Cabinet has approved, had not been implemented. The Presidential working group on disability was chaired by the President himself, and there would be extreme progress in this area. The ministers that constituted the sub-technical group would have to take issues seriously.

On the subject of cooperatives, she said that she and the Minister had a bigger plan. Their vision was to empower women. Where cooperatives did not exist, it was their responsibility to form them and incubate them for 12 months. When the Department had become involved with the issue of uniforms and establishing cooperatives, it had started entering into fights over intellectual property. As it rolled out the cooperatives and pulled women out of poverty, Minister Dlamini had had to lead the fight against intellectual property. Issues of intellectual property could destroy the whole process of empowering communities.

In presenting both presentations, we would like the Committee to underscore and acknowledging that our work was bigger than the rands and cents that we have. Long after the drought has gone, we in social development would be picking up the impact. How do we respond to this impact?

On HIV/Aids, the Department remained responsible for leading prevention in the national strategy plan. It acknowledged the fact that the epidemic was no longer a generalised one. It should be understood that one should be active, innovative and responsive to cultural and linguistic aspects in the pillar of prevention in the NDP. The Department had established a relationship between the Central Drug Authority, the National Aids Council and all its supporting agencies, with gender-based violence and youth and their empowerment. In this same circle of prevention, the DSD was dealing with issues of alcohol and illegal substances. Integration must be stressed, as units in the DSD could no longer work as silos.

The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister. She suggested that discussion had been exhausted around these two matters. Questions concerning the court issue had been answered, and she thanked the Department for the explanations. She asked that the last item on the agenda, the adoption of the first term Committee programme, be delayed.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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