The Chairperson noted her disapproval at the non-attendance of this meeting by the Minister, Deputy Minister and several Members. The Department of Social Development (DSD), with some input also from the South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) took Members through the 2016 Annual Performance Plan and budget. (ECD). The Department intended, in this year, to deepen social assistance and the scope for social security. It would also strengthen integrated community development interventions. Finally it would strengthen social monitoring measures and processes. More specific methods of achieving these goals were presented, and some detail was given on how the DSD intended to achieve the goals. The DSD had, like many other departments, seen a cut in its budget, by R397 million and these cuts were mainly in social assistance and employee compensation, which meant it would struggle to fill posts. Although there were increases in R812 million these related to specific funding for Early Childhood Development (ECD) and amounts set aside for completion of the substance abuse centres. It was stressed that only 0.5% of the total budget went to operational costs of the DSD, and the other 99.5% related to transfer of social grants, and for the work of the South African Social Security Agency and the National Development Agency.
Members asked about incidences of fraudulent behaviour in Empangeni, allegedly through approval of fraudulent applications, whether this was a widespread practice and whether there was funding to address it. They asked about the review of the White Paper, how DSD was building capacity of the provinces, and questioned figures in the presentation. Two opposition Members raised questions around the alleged distribution of food parcels from political premises on weekends just prior to elections or voter registration, but the Chairperson asked that Members not politicise issues of social development. Several were concerned about ongoing reports about elderly abuse, and asked to what extent there was cooperation between the DSD and other departments on early childhood development. They were also concerned what was happening on the Drug Master Plan, especially in the provinces, and suggested that this should be heavily promoted, perhaps even linked to subsidies, by the youth camps. Members wanted to know what was being done to curb irregular expenditure, and suggested that more should be done for military veterans. A Special Representative for the Minister addressed some of the questions. The Chairperson summarised the sentiment of Members that the Department should be doing more on the scourge of drugs, and more dialogue was needed.
The Chairperson noted the apologies tendered by both the Minister and Deputy Minister of Social Development. She commented that this was not a good indicator of how seriously the Committee was being taken by the Ministry and also commented that the lack of attendance by Members of the Committee was disappointing.
Department of Social Development (DSD) on its 2016 Annual Performance Plan and budget
Mr Thokozani Magwaza, Acting Director General, Department of Social Development, introduced his team.
The Chairperson asked why so many of the Departmental officials present at the meeting occupied acting positions.
Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA Western Cape) echoed this concern.
Mr Magwaza said that he could not answer that. He explained that if a person was promoted or moved temporarily to become, for instance, the Acting Director General, then this meant that another vacancy would arise in that original post. As far as his own position was concerned the interviews for a permanent Director-General would be done in April 2016.
The Chairperson recommended that the Committee should review the planning and monitoring process. However, she asserted that this meeting would not go outside the parameters in the meeting title and agenda.
Mr Magwaza then presented the Annual Performance Plan for the 2016 year and emphasised a focus on family and family structure. The Department of Social Development (DSD or the Department) would also increase and improve the provision of Early Childhood Development (ECD). It would also deepen social assistance and the scope for social security. It would also strengthen integrated community development interventions. Finally it would strengthen social monitoring measures and processes. These focus areas all emphasised in the Department’s 2016 APP.
Ms Lumka Oliphant, Chief Director, DSD, re-iterated the points made by Mr Magwaza and moved on to point out the strategic objectives in its various programmes and projects. The DSD also intended, by 2019, to do the following:
- Strengthen social welfare service delivery through legislative and policy reforms
- Reduce the incidences of social crime, substance abuse and facilitate the provision of support services and target groups
- Promote the empowerment and rights of persons with disabilities through the development and implementation of legislation, policies and programmes
- Strengthen child protection services and improve the quality of ECD services
- Deepen social assistance and extend the scope for social security
- Facilitate and coordinate community development efforts to build vibrant and sustainable communities
- Improve Social Development sector performance through monitoring and evaluation
She then went into the Department's five programmes, setting out for each one, how the DSD would achieve the stated goals, and the specific measures that the DSD intended to put in place (see attached presentation for full details). The five programmes dealt, in chronological order, with administration, social policy and integrated services, welfare services, social security policy and integration and finally social assistance. The bulk of the presentation and the focus of the Department’s APP was in the Welfare Services Programme and the Social Policy and Integration programme. Ms Oliphant also stated that the Department would like to review the Social Welfare White Paper.
Mr Clifford Appel, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Social Development, summarised the budget (see attached presentation). It had seen a reduction of the budget by R397 million and these cuts were mainly in the area of social assistance, as well as in the employee compensation item of the budget. This meant that the Department would struggle to fill the vacant posts. Some of the present vacancies may not have funding, moving forward. He stated that there was an increase in some budget line items, of R812 million, but this related mostly to specific funding for ECD, and the completion of the substance abuse treatment centres, which would be coming in the 2017/18 financial year.
Overall, there would be an average increase in the budget of the Department, of 7.94% between 2015/16 and 2018/19, and an average increase in the amount allocated per programme of 8.45% - again, this was mostly due to the funding so that the substance abuse treatment centres could be completed.
He thought it important to stress that of the total R148 billion budget, only 0.5% was used for operational costs of the Department with the other 99.5% is operational costs for the transfer of social grants and for the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the National Development Agency (NDA).
He listed the average increases in the budget of each programme as identified by Ms Oliphant (see attached presentation). He particularly wanted to highlight the average budget increase in Programme 4: Welfare Services Policy development and support, of 25.85%. This increase was mainly around the ECD funding that the Department received and also the substance abuse treatment centre budgets. There is a predicted budget increase of 4.82% in Programme 5.
The Chairperson repeated that this meeting was one that was particularly important because the Committee would be holding the Department accountable for what it was presenting in these plans.
Mr M Khawula (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) asked about the incidences of fraudulent behaviour in Empangeni, where R19 million had been reported to be defrauded through the approval of more than 1 300 fraudulent applications. He also asked whether there would be an investigation into the fraudulent activities that took place in the Department in Empangeni and how widespread this kind of practice was across the Department as a whole. He had seen funding allocated for such investigations, and hoped that results would be seen.
He questioned the Department on the review of the White Paper, specifically around the point of welfare services, and how DSD was building the capacity of provinces to carry this out, because he had understood at one point that the Department had removed that responsibility from the provinces. He also pointed to discrepancies in the figures, where 11.4 million and 12.348 million children were mentioned on different pages.
Mrs Mpambo-Sibhukwana asked if there was any money budgeted for food parcels, which in the past had been handed out around municipal election time and voter registration time. She also wanted to know how much the Department had done to address the abuse of the elderly and the way that elderly people's money was abused for purposes such as airtime and so on. She asked whether the Department of Social Development was working with the Department of Basic Education around ECD.
The Chairperson pleaded with Members, particularly the DA, not to politicise the issue of social development. She congratulated the Department for moving past just subsidising ECDs to building and funding infrastructure of their own, thus enabling the Department to have more control over ECD. She asked if the DSD could increase the funding for youth development and link this it to the Drug Master Plan and argued that if the youth camps needed more money, then it could perhaps be tied in to implementing the Drug Master Plan. She emphasised that the Department did not appear to be doing enough in regard to the Drug Master Plan. She also would have liked to see more money for funding military veterans. She finally asked whether the Department had strengthened the measures that were being put in place to stop irregular expenditure.
Mr C Hattingh (DA, North West) asked when the nine provinces would be seen to be implementing the Drug Master Plan as he had not seen any evidence of this, nor of its effect. He also asked about the handing out of food parcels from political premises during registration weekends, and furthermore asked about the use of certain political infrastructure to do this.
The Chairperson said that the Department could respond to Mr Hattingh’s question only insofar as it concerned the distribution of food parcels from political premises.
Mr Magwaza said that he did not know what exactly the food parcels were, but it was possible that these might be the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) packages that the Department handed out – if so, there was a budget for that, and the SASSA personnel would speak to it. The Department had identified 1 300 wards that were deemed to be “poverty wards”. The distribution of SRD parcels mostly took place within these wards. However, the responsibility for SRD lay with SASSA.
Ms Virginia Petersen, Chief Executive Officer, SASSA, said that it was impossible for the DSD or SASSA to plan for the unforeseen circumstances of communities. However, SASSA estimated on average that it would get 400000 applications for SRDs. The statistics for end February 2016 showed that there had been 337 000 applications made for SRDs. SRDs span three different categories; cash, food parcels and school uniform. Speaking to the provinces, it was clear that the distribution was linked to levels of poverty in particular wards in each province. 61 000 applications were received from the Eastern Cape, 7 000 from the Free State, 59 000 from Gauteng (because although Gauteng has less grants, but that it seems to have more people moving to the peripheries of the city looking for work), 17 000 in KwaZulu natal, despite its population size, but probably due to the higher grant numbers in general, 54 000 in Limpopo, 30 000 in Mpumalanga, 31 000 in Northern Cape, 46 000 in North West and 28 000 in Western Cape, largely due to the fires or the floods per annum. She explained that a person would have to apply specifically for a SRD. SASSA approved these applications and was responsible for their distribution. However, the provincial departments also had a response to such matters, even within municipalities. There was a broad spread of food security programmes within provinces, that were independent of SASSA.
Mr Magwaza spoke to the question about distribution on the weekends. He said that the Department worked throughout the week, including weekends. The Minister said that at every level, Members of the DSD must engage with the community and work over weekends was seen by the Department and the Minister as a way to do so.
He said that he did not know about political parties distributing SRDs as the DSD staff came from all different political backgrounds. He said that it was not his place to deny anyone a SRD, based on their political affiliation, and referred to freedom of movement and expression. He reiterated that DSD would go everywhere and the movements are determined through need and are not influenced by politics.
Ms Conny Nxumalo, Deputy Director General: Welfare Services, DSD, said that because of the magnitude of the drug problem it was always going to be difficult to implement the Drug Master Plan. She emphasized that the Drug Master Plan is inter-sectoral in nature and that every part of the government that had a responsibility as involved in the implementation of the Plan. There were nine provincial substance abuse forums, which perform very well, but community action and community mobilisation was lacking – for a community should be enabled to deal with the issue of drug abuse itself. She emphasised that the Department should strengthen prevention programmes. She said that the provinces had different levels of implementation because of the financial constraints that each province faced and that their efforts were therefore relative.
In relation to the ECD she noted that the DSD was working with other key departments, such as Departments of Basic Education, Health, and Public Works. She said that the framework was present in South Africa, but she argued that what South Africa needed, in terms of fighting and preventing its drug abuse problem, was community action. She said prevention should be improved, in order to stop South Africa’s children from ending up in treatment centres. She mentioned that ECD had considerably improved
She could not comment in detail on the issue of Empangeni as it was still under investigation.
Ms Nxumalo noted that to date, the DSD had registered up to 26 000 ECD facilities, but the Department was still having a registration drive, as there are still a lot of unregistered ECD facilities. She said that processes were in place to investigate these fraudulent incidences, especially in the foster care area, in all nine provinces, starting in KZN. In the current financial year the Department would re-write the White Paper. However, she emphasised that it is just a policy document and nothing more, so the Committee should not make links between it and SASSA.
Mr Magwaza said the Department had been taken to court by the private sector regarding funeral plans and funeral grants and illegal deductions and abuse of the elderly, and the grants paid out to them by the Department.
The Chairperson said that in this case, the matter would be regarded as sub judice so that it should not be discussed further.
Another member of the Department acknowledged the mismatch in the figures pointed out by Mr Khawula and explained that the one was from the strategy report in 2015, but the other was from the APP, which was updated annually. He responded to the question on the increase of the Child Support Grant, and said that it was because it takes around a year to place children in foster care, children would need to be taken care of in the interim.
Mr Appel said that the Department had strengthened the Department's systems to prevent irregular expenditure. He reminded the Committee Members of the increase in the budget of the Department's internal audit section.
Mr Khawula followed up with another question on the SRD, asking if this was a once-off application or whether a person was able to apply several times, across several years. He thought that probably the reason for the low numbers of these applications in KwaZulu Natal was more linked to lack of awareness, so he wanted to know how people could apply and how these grants worked.
Mr Magaza said that these were not treated as a once-off and repeated that there were three basic components. Sometimes, the DSD would continue to supply SRDs over extended periods, but the general cut off point was six months.
The Chairperson asked that the Department should focus on areas where the bulk of its money was going. She would like to hear more from SASSA and NDA. She asked the Special Representative to the Minister to speak to any issues.
The Minster's Special Representative said that there was no political agenda from the Minister’s side when it came to the distribution of the ‘food parcels’ through a political infrastructure. The Minister was taking the issue of deductions from the elderly very seriously. The Minister kept saying that the structure of the Departmental budget did not allow for social development and regulation of transfers. The Minister was increasing the number of camps and the social development of the youth. Finally he said that increasing the capacity of the Central Drug Authority was the way in which the Minister was responding to the problem of the Drug Master Plan and was doing more than was currently being done.
The Chairperson picked up that point and said that Members felt that the Department was not doing enough. More dialogue was needed on what could be done. She reiterated that the Committee should not suggest that food parcels were being used for political ends.
The meeting was adjourned.
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